Alaska wants help repairing its brittle weather stations

Alaska lawmakers are asking the federal government for help repairing weather stations that are continually breaking in harsh weather.
communications towers in snowy area
(Getty Images)

Earlier this month, the Alaska state legislature introduced a joint resolution that calls on the federal government to address persistent outages that have plagued the state’s rural weather observation stations and often disrupt commercial aviation activities.

Eighty-two percent of Alaskan communities are not connected to the main road system and many Alaskans rely on aviation for food, cargo, medicines and other care services, according to the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. Under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, if a station is not reporting weather data and another federally approved weather source cannot supplement the information, then a commercial pilot cannot legally or safely fly there.

The resolution would require the FAA “to take actions necessary to restore the full functionality and connectivity of weather station equipment and the associated telecommunications systems.” 

Automated Weather Observing System stations and Automated Surface Observing System stations report weather forecasting and real-time data to the National Weather Service and FAA.


AWOS units collect data on weather conditions, wind direction and speed, along with other critical information needed for pilots, such as cloud cover, visibility, temperature and air pressure, reporting at 20-minute intervals, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ASOS units report observations for rapidly changing weather conditions, including the intensity of precipitation and any obstructions to visibility, such as fog and haze — critical information for public safety agencies and the aviation industry. 

The resolution claims the FAA is responsible for the vast majority of weather stations and aviation-related infrastructure in Alaska. It notes that the agency operates and maintains more than 100 stations across the state, while the National Weather Service runs about 40 stations in Alaska. 

According to the FAA’s outage logs, which tracks the operational status of weather observation stations, one in three weather stations in Alaska experienced some level of outage on any given day last year.

The resolution also urges the aviation agency to work with Alaska lawmakers — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Mary Peltola — and various state departments to repair its weather stations.

Sophia Fox-Sowell

Written by Sophia Fox-Sowell

Sophia Fox-Sowell reports on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and government regulation for StateScoop. She was previously a multimedia producer for CNET, where her coverage focused on private sector innovation in food production, climate change and space through podcasts and video content. She earned her bachelor’s in anthropology at Wagner College and master’s in media innovation from Northeastern University.

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