What I do at work

I’m a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. Right now my main job at work is to man the public service unit (PSU). The PSU desk is staffed from 0600 to 2200 local time, and two shifts (0600-1400, 1400-2200) cover that. Each week or two the shift assigned to me changes.

One of the PSU staffer’s duties—as the name implies—is to provide public service. This takes the form of calls, emails, or visits by members of the public, who ask questions or give information. On a typical day, I’ll get calls from cooperative observers giving their daily measurements and requests for forecast products for given days and locations. More rarely, I’ll get spotter reports on severe weather events, calls about broken equipment, or general observations of significant weather (especially around airfields).

But this doesn’t take up too much time in an eight-hour shift, so there are other duties. I’ll issue certain routine products like the river level summary or daily climate summary. Our office has our own co-op station which gets looked at once per shift. Our numerical weather models depend on input from actual observations throughout the forecast area. I take a quick look at those numbers to ensure there are no glaring oddities before allowing the model to ingest them.

I also do metwatch (“meteorological watch”), which is monitoring real-time weather information for significant events, or deviations from the forecast. I have my choice of what info to use; right now I look at local radar, satellite imagery, webcams, and data from automated observation stations. This is quite a challenge, as the Fairbanks office is responsible for assessing and forecasting for the largest land area of any NWS office in the US. Most of that area comprises unpopulated wilderness.

Other duties include occasionally monitoring and testing NOAA Weather Radio, the Alaska Weather Information Line, and the public website for our office.

Even all this only takes up a portion of the shift. During the rest I often do forecasting training, or other activities to build my experience level.

I’m what’s called an “intern” meteorologist. At the Fairbanks office, interns are assigned to the PSU desk at first, while working on the training necessary to become a forecaster. So far it’s been fun, challenging, and engaging. Eventually, as that training progresses, I’ll begin pulling training shifts on the forecaster desk in addition to PSU desk shifts.