As temperatures rise, we at the NWAC office are shifting gears to plan for the seasons to come. Every spring we examine the operations and events of the past year and look for ways that we can improve our services and products to better help our community recreate in the wintertime mountains. Our Spring Fund Drive has become essential in that process as it raises funds to tackle big and critical projects.
This year we are focusing on our mountain weather stations. With 47 stations, the NWAC network is the largest of its kind and it can be a challenge to keep them all functioning. Many of our weather stations date back to the early days of the NWAC in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and were built without a whole lot of resources. Mark Moore, the founding director of NWAC, managed the initial installation, development, and maintenance of this remote network. Many of the early stations were built with unique materials and locally developed instruments (read: it was scrapped together with what we had at the time.)
Over the years the mountain weather station technology has improved, yet not all of the stations have incorporated modern communications systems and modern hardware. With limited resources, in the form of both money and staff, many upgrades to the stations are still possible.
NWAC does not employ designated weather station staff, and though forecasters work to maintain and repair stations, it is a real challenge during the operational forecasting season, especially when weather windows for repair can be brief. Outages can take days, weeks, or even a whole season (Alpental folks know what we’re talking about) to repair. When systems break they leave gaps and create challenges for understanding mountain weather conditions and for creating accurate mountain weather and avalanche forecasts.
Though weather modeling has improved, and our partners at the WSDOT, ski areas, and the National Parks among others provide us with valuable information and support, the weather station network remains essential in places where no other information is available.
While it’s important to us, we also know it’s important to you. We have listened to your feedback (and there is a lot when stations are down) and recognize that reliable mountain weather data is valuable to NWAC users when planning their days out.
This year our goal is to raise $25,000 to complete an audit of our weather stations, allocate funds to create a specific position for weather station upgrades, and purchase needed equipment.
Please consider supporting the network you rely on.
Before and after the 2016 Alpental Weather Station Upgrade