84th AMS Annual Meeting

Wednesday, 14 January 2004
Near-real-time meteorological observations from watershed studies in northern Alaska: useful information for atmospheric monitoring and forecasting in a data-sparse region
Hall AB
John Gallagher, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK; and L. Hinzman, D. L. Kane, B. C. Johnson, and K. Irving
The Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks maintains approximately 30 meteorological observing stations in northern Alaska. These observations in conjunction with readings of soil moisture, ground temperature and various hydrological parameters enable the study of arctic and subarctic watersheds. A radio telemetry system has been developed to provide near-real-time data from 23 of the sites. The data is available via the internet, with hourly or 3-hourly updates received from most of the stations. This near-real-time information allows researchers to monitor the stations and quickly identify equipment failures and other problems at these remote sites. This capability is a valuable planning tool that enables a more efficient use of resources. The availability of these observations on the internet can also provide forecasters and others wishing to monitor conditions or initiate weather-dependent activities in northern Alaska with additional information that supplements the sparse coverage of official surface observations in the region.

The meteorological stations maintained by WERC are primarily in three regions of northern Alaska: a research basin in the Tanana-Yukon uplands about 40 km northeast of Fairbanks, the North Slope region (from the Brooks Range to Prudhoe Bay), and the Seward Peninsula. The observed parameters vary from station to station, but most have temperature, relative humidity, and wind information from one or more levels above the ground. Some stations also have instruments to observe long and short wave radiation, snow depth, and precipitation. The network also includes two web-cams.

Data from the WERC sites has been used by forecasters as an aid in monitoring and verifying northern Alaska weather conditions. However, some caution is advised in that the data displayed on the internet is considered preliminary and unofficial. Differences exist between the standard systems (ASOS, AWOS, etc.) deployed at airport locations and the remote observing systems installed by WERC. These differences include: the type and model of instruments used, the height above ground of the instruments, and the sample rate and time-averaging algorithms used to derive the readings. Therefore, it is important to have communication between research groups who provide such data and the auxiliary users who benefit from its availability. This will increase awareness of supplementary data sources and ensure their appropriate use.

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