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Two outpost offices of the National Weather Service in Alaska are trying to bring a change in the way the weather is forecast for several decades.
The Nome and Kodiak offices are switching to computerized voices that go by the names of Tom, Donna and, in some parts of the country, Spanish-speaking Javier. The idea was first hatched in the mid-1990s as part of a move to modernize the weather service, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
A local weather forecast is a serious issue in Alaska as it can be a matter of life and death. The forecasts are broadcast on NOAA’s weather radio network.
Especially, in Nome and Kodiak, weather reports are crucial for many because of the severe weather that can affect fishing vessels in far-flung regions, including the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska.
The importance of the weather forecasts could be understood by the fact that they are also broadcast over radio stations in Nome, including KNOM, which first reported the changes.
The Nome office briefly activated the technology last week through the Fairbanks office, one of three forecast offices in Alaska. Other smaller outpost offices scattered throughout the state have already gone the digital voice route.
The officials have set no date for making the switch at the service office in Kodiak, located on the island of the same name. Officials pointed out that work is underway to patch that office with the Anchorage forecast office for the broadcasts.
Other sites to be converted later to digital voices are in the US territories of Guam, American Samoa and Northern Mariana islands, officials said.
Wherever the digital voices are deployed, they can be customized to pronounce locations accurately.