Weather Service cuts balloon launches amid staffing issue

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Workers at 13 Alaska sites are supposed to release balloons twice a day that collect data on temperature, pressure and wind, but the National Weather Service has reduced weather balloon launches in rural Alaska, affecting the quality of forecasts.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports launches have been limited in recent years by staffing shortages and by an overtime policy change in August.

The Weather Service has launched 28 percent fewer balloons at six of the remote sites in order to keep employees to a 40-hour work week.

The loss of any input data affects weather models, but the degree it hurts the accuracy of forecasts isn't easy to quantify.

Weather Service Alaska Region Director Carven Scott says the Weather Service supplements data from weather balloons with data from satellites.