International Arctic weather workshop to be held at UAF

Rod Boyce
Jan. 12, 2024

An international group of nearly 140 military personnel and civilians with an interest in improving Arctic weather forecasting will gather at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for a four-day conference starting Tuesday.

The Arctic Weather Workshop 2024 will be hosted by the UAF Geophysical Institute and held at the UAF Wood Center. Participants include numerous U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines personnel and staff and weather experts from the Geophysical Institute and the UAF International Arctic Research Center. 

Civilian and military representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden and Germany will also be attending.

Participating Geophysical Institute units include the Alaska Earthquake Center, the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration and the Geographic Information Network of Alaska.

Temperature sign at UAF entrance
UAF photo
The time and temperature sign on Alumni Drive on a frigid January 2021 morning on the UAF Troth Yeddha’ campus in Fairbanks.

The workshop’s goal is to identify cold region data and knowledge gaps and propose solutions in response to Arctic strategies of the U.S. Department of Defense and other NATO Arctic nations.

Data collection and forecasting in the Arctic has many challenges, but the workshop will focus on two:

  • The lack of available or known weather observation points to verify conditions in the vast region.
  • The need for training and knowledge in forecasting techniques and procedures for the Arctic region that vary from those used in the mid- and low latitudes. 

For example, geostationary satellites have low view angles in the Arctic and little to no signal above 70 degrees latitude. Also, mid-latitude cyclone theory is not always applicable in the Arctic. And models struggle to produce viable winter forecasts for this region.  

“This workshop is a great opportunity for all U.S. military services, contractors affiliated with Air Force Weather, academia, other U.S. government entities and our NATO partners who are interested in improving meteorological and oceanographic weather sensing gaps, forecasts and models in sub-Arctic and Arctic environments,” said Gail Weaver, a meteorologist at the 611th Air Operations Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

“Participants will be able to discuss operational challenges and use teamwork to find solutions that can benefit everyone,” she said. “We also look forward to reinforcing and expanding professional relationships, along with improving collaboration with everyone in attendance.”

Sessions will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at the UAF Wood Center.

Thursday and Friday include tours of the university’s Poker Flat Research Range, the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Geophysical Institute, National Weather Service Fairbanks Forecast Office and the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permafrost Research Tunnel.

The 1st Combat Weather Squadron, Detachment 3, will hold a field training exercise Thursday and Friday at Fort Wainwright to demonstrate tactical environment cold weather operations and survival techniques.

Geophysical Institute Director Robert McCoy is the Tuesday lunchtime speaker. IARC Director Hajo Eicken will speak at Wednesday’s lunch.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Burke of the Army’s 11th Airborne Division will give the opening remarks Tuesday. The day will end with remarks from Chief Master Sgt. Michael Adcock, the Air Force weather manager for readiness and logistics for the air component of both U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.

Wednesday’s opening remarks will come from Col. Paul Townsend, commander of the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base. Brig. Gen. David Moar, the Alaska NORAD Region deputy commander at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, will close out the event Wednesday.

The workshop was last held in 2022 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Organizers hope to hold the workshop annually.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Gail Weaver, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, , 907-552-4303; Air Force Master Sgt. William Ledbetter, Fort Wainwright, 317-353-6357.