Two dozen manned weather sites across Alaska are getting a closer look by the National Weather Service, and aviators are worried about losing what they say is vital weather data for flying around or over dangerous terrain.
Correctly gauging the height of clouds in a mountain pass, for example, often means the difference between life and death in the cockpit. Observations from certified contractors in remote areas can provide that type of information. But there are difficulties that come with that, and the National Weather Service is questioning whether there might be a better way.
The weather service forecasters use observations from contracted, private citizens to aid them in predicting weather across Alaska. While the observations are helpful, they might not be crucial to the weather service's overall mission, and the service is re-evaluating its use of the contracted sites, according to Angel Corona, chief of the service's data acquisition branch, which oversees the contracts.
"For our means, we could say, 'Well, we don't need those anymore for our needs, so they're going to go away,' but obviously we're affecting other people," Corona said.
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