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Volunteer weather observer recognized after 30 years

National Weather Service honors Wing for second-longest, most complete database in Juneau

Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2010

A longtime weather observer was recognized this month for more than 30 years of daily volunteer weather reporting in Juneau.

Courtesy Of Dodie Leopold
Courtesy Of Dodie Leopold

Dr. Bruce Wing, 71, a research fish biologist at NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center, was honored earlier this month by NOAA's National Weather Service Forecast Office in Juneau for recording weather and sea surface temperatures for the Cooperative Observer Program's Auke Bay site from 1979 to 2009.

"It is gratifying to receive the award," Wing said. "Although the weather observation and recording them may require only 15 to 30 minutes per day, it is a seven-day-per-week task that needs to be done within a relatively short time frame.

"Like farming, the cows have to be milked and fed daily. Only the weather observations are a volunteer task. It is nice to know that someone appreciates the effort."

Although Wing became primary observer of the local site in 1979, he also was involved as a relief observer when the co-op was first installed at Auke Bay Laboratories in February 1963.

"That's a long time for someone to be doing a volunteer activity," said Kimberly Vaughan, observing program leader for the National Weather Service in Juneau. "It's amazing for him to be able to do this, Monday through Friday. He has to come in on his weekends, holidays and non-work days to collect this data every day."

Not to mention, Wing has an almost flawless database for the last 30 years, Vaughan said.

"If he does have any missing data, I could probably count it on one hand," Vaughan said.

In fact, Wing's database is the second-longest and most complete database the National Weather Service has in Juneau, second to the Juneau International Airport's, Vaughan said.

Wing's daily observations include recording the high temperature, low temperature, 24-hour precipitation, 24-hour snowfall, snow on the ground, sea surface temperature, surface salinity and incident sun light.

"Weather observing is important to my daily work," Wing said. "By following the daily changes and trends, I am better able to understand what is happening in the ocean and to our fishery stocks."

Although Wing has been with NOAA since September 1971, he has been in weather longer. He started in 1956 as a relief observer for the Scripps Oceanographic Institute.

"Then, one day in the summer of 1979, the late Jerrie Olsen came to my office and handed me a stack of records and data forms, saying 'You are the only one here using these records. I am retiring tomorrow,'" Wing described. "I have been at it ever since."

Although Wing sees a great deal of variation in the daily weather, he has noted some distinct patterns.

"To paraphrase the Christmas song, 'As for me and Grampa, We believe,' my data from Auke Bay over the last 47 years has obvious warming trends and increased seasonal snowfall," he said.

Aside from showing the micro-climates in the Juneau area, Wing's diligence has helped the Auke Bay site become a climatic station, a station that has collected 30 or more years of data.

"So due to the long-standing records we have for that station, we can actually figure out at that point what normals are," Vaughan said.

As for now, Wing spends his time identifying and counting zooplankton and analyzing their distribution in space and time. But he said he'll continue volunteering for the National Weather Service.

"As long as I'm working here, it's logical for me to do it," Wing said.

"We joke that we're hoping we will get to give him another 30-year award in 30 years," Vaughan added. "He probably will retire at some point, but he hasn't given us any clue that he's going to."

•••

The Cooperative Observer Program is a national weather and climate observing network formally created in 1890 to provide the meteorological observations required to define the nation's climate. It provides data in support of forecasts, warnings and other public service programs of the National Weather Service.

There are 35 co-op stations in Southeast Alaska and several hundred in the state. With about two volunteers at each station, there are at least 60 volunteers in Southeast and more than 11,000 in the nation.

Since its inception in 1963, the Auke Bay site has contributed more than 17,000 days of environmental observations as part of the program.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at kim.andree@juneauempire.com.



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