The half-hour TV show, Alaska Weather, has helped pilots understand, and visualize, statewide weather patterns for over forty years. Produced jointly by Alaska Public Media and the Nation Weather Service-Alaska Region, it airs nightly on public television channels starting at 5:30 pm on some stations, and later on others. More on this later, but pilots should take note that Alaska Weather is available any time you want to view it after 6 pm, on YouTube. Rather than timing your day around the broadcast schedule of a local station, as long as you have reasonable internet access the program is sitting there, ready to watch at your convenience.
When the program first started in September, 1976 it was called Aviation Weather, and focused specifically on the aviation community. Over the years the value of providing a statewide summary of weather conditions became apparent, and the scope of the program was expanded to include general public and marine forecasts.
As pilots, we have access to some excellent online aviation weather resources today, including the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit’s website (note their new address: weather.gov/aawu) but I still find it helpful to listen to a meteorologist explain what is going on, and provide the “big picture” before I look at individual observations, forecasts and weather camera sites. The National Weather Service has gone to significant efforts to utilize satellite imagery and animation loops to help viewers see the flows of air and moisture that influence the atmospheric conditions we can expect the following day.
The program also features seasonal information, which currently includes warnings about areas of high wildfire danger. In the spring, reports of flooding and break-up on the rivers are included in the broadcast. Last night’s episode included mention of a new weather camera just added by the FAA at Honolulu. I admit that until seeing the map showing the camera site location between McKinley Park and Talkeetna, I was thinking that the camera station was in Hawaii…
Hangar Flying segments
From the beginning, there has been a short break in the middle of the half hour weather program (on commercial stations, this would have been filled with advertisements). Often a safety or short educational feature is included. To help provide content for this 10 minute break between aviation and marine forecasts, the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation (AASF) stepped up to the plate, and created a short segment, Hangar Flying, which aired twice a week. This feature was also as a joint effort with Alaska Public Media, who provided the studio and staff to produce the program. These short segments, regularly hosted by AASF Board Chair Harry Kieling and Board Secretary Mary O’Connor, featured interviews with a wide range of pilots, mechanics, educators, government officials and other “persons of interest.” Unfortunately changes at KAKM resulted in suspension of production of the program last April, but I hope to see it back in the future.
Where to find Alaska Weather on TV
Realizing that not everyone has internet access capable of streaming video, it is important also to know where and when to find the program on public television channels across the state. The following link takes you to a page about the show: http://www.weather.gov/afc/tv. The table below provides the time and networks that carry the program. In most cases the Alaska Weather is aired in the early evening, arming you with weather information for the following two days. Unfortunately, Alaska Public Media stations in Southcentral, Southeast and Southwest Alaska don’t broadcast the show until 5 am the following morning. If those stations are your only broadcast TV access, it is another good reason to consider firing up your computer and watching on YouTube.
However you access it, Alaska Weather continues to be a great way to load the big picture in your head, helping plan the following day. Weather is one of our biggest challenges in aviation. We know there is a shortage of reporting stations in Alaska that sometimes makes it difficult to figure out what to expect along a flight route. Being armed with the synoptic view of weather patterns, even before you start a weather briefing, gives you a leg up on safety planning your next flight. Thanks to the National Weather Service for providing this tool for our flight kit!