The National Weather Service (NWS) plans to reduce staff at its rural Alaska weather stations by about two-thirds over the next two years.
That’s because it’s implementing automatic weather balloon launches to replace manual balloon launches and says it’s reassigning people to central forecast offices.
Listen below for a look at the impacts this could have on weather forecast services in Western Alaska.
Some background on the National Weather Service’s operations in Alaska: There are three Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. These offices are the central hubs, where information collected from around the state is plugged into models and spit out as the forecasts you see online or hear on the radio.
In addition to the WFOs, there are 12 Weather Service Offices (WSOs) in rural hub communities, including Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, and Utkiagvik. They’re among the last remaining WFOs in the country, according to Carven Scott, the National Weather Service Alaska Region director.
Image at top: the site of the previously human-led National Weather Service weather balloon launches in Nome. Photo: Tyler Stup, KNOM.