Weather Watch

Luminant meteorologist’s forecasts critical to reliably, safely powering Texas


The people at Luminant’s power plants and mines also rely on Chief Meteorologist Michael Whitehead’s forecasts and alerts.

The people at Luminant’s power plants and mines rely on Chief Meteorologist Michael Whitehead’s forecasts and alerts.

Winter weather moving into the state causes people to add a layer and turn up the thermostat, and it can also impact how Luminant goes about the business of powering Texas. Teams across the company depend on Luminant’s chief meteorologist and his forecasts and real-time weather reports.

A retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, meteorologist and oceanographer, Michael Whitehead is one of the top operational and severe weather and hurricane meteorologists in the nation. He began his energy career in 2000 and has provided forecasts for Luminant for the past eight years.

So why does Luminant have an in-house meteorologist?

“Weather is the biggest factor in how much power our customers use,” Whitehead says. “An in-house meteorologist can focus like a laser beam on what’s important for our business. When our energy traders, schedulers and plant and mine personnel plan out the day, I can give them forecasts of the weather conditions at specific points and times across the area Luminant serves. The difference between 35 degrees or 32 degrees can determine whether another unit is needed. Besides safety, making sure we have enough power to meet the need – that’s always No. 1.”

The people at Luminant’s power plants and mines also rely on Whitehead’s forecasts to prepare for extreme weather, and for their personal safety. When a severe thunderstorm approached Luminant’s Kosse Mine, for example, Whitehead’s updates helped crews take shelter before lightning and other dangerous conditions developed, Senior Construction Engineer Mark Emery said.

A recent study determined Dallas has one of the most unpredictable weather patterns in the nation. Whitehead doesn’t disagree.

“Most every meteorologist will say that their station is one of the most unpredictable weather patterns to deal with,” Whitehead said. “However, Dallas is at a crossroads where many of our nation’s storm systems form right on top of us – whether they be winter ice or snow-makers to severe thunderstorms or tornado outbreaks. One always has to be on their toes forecasting here.”

The significant weather this November – a first freeze two weeks earlier than usual, record number of hours below freezing and the first snow in parts of North Texas – may foretell a “memorable” winter.

“After a mostly warm December, January has the makings of becoming quite a memorable month, with a large change of temperatures and a couple opportunities for snow,” Whitehead predicts. “February probably will be the coldest month compared to normal. Since we’re talking about one of the colder winters of the 2000s, that could be significant.”

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