Computers replace humans reading weather reports - New York News

Computers replace humans reading weather reports

Posted: Updated:

By RACHEL D'ORO

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Two outpost offices of the National Weather Service in Alaska are finally ending what has been a bygone practice for most of the nation for almost two decades — using real human voices in radio forecast broadcasts.

The Nome and Kodiak offices are switching to computerized voices that nationally go by the names of Tom, Donna and, in some parts of the country, Spanish-speaking Javier. It's an idea 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).

Local weather forecasts are a big deal to many people in Alaska because, more than in some other parts of the United States, the forecasts can be a matter of life and death. The forecasts are broadcast on NOAA's weather radio network.

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 (think of the violent storms on the cable television show "The Deadliest Catch") and the Gulf of Alaska.

Knowing what the weather will do is also extremely important to pilots and passengers needing to get to larger cities. Kodiak is on an island, and Nome is on the western coast with no roads to link it to another major Alaska hub city.

The weather forecasts are so important that they are also broadcast over radio stations in Nome, including KNOM, which first reported the changes.

The Nome office briefly activated the technology this 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.

A technological kink, however, prompted the Nome office to go back to local weather service employees reading the forecasts until the problem is rectified in the near future, officials said.

It's a job that meteorological technician Robert Murders dreaded when he first moved to Nome, an old gold rush town about 550 miles northwest of Anchorage. Then he got to enjoy reading the forecasts. He was watching the Discovery Channel reality show, "Bering Sea Gold," last season when he heard one of his own broadcasts in the background.

"That was kind of cool," Murders said.

But he also recognizes the speed and efficiency of using the automated voices, which are updated immediately, even if no one is in the office.

There is no target date for making the switch at the service office in Kodiak, located on the island of the same name. Angel Corona, with the weather service's data-acquisition branch in Anchorage, said work is underway to patch that office with the Anchorage forecast office for the broadcasts.

The Nome and Kodiak offices are being brought into the digital-voice era as part of a national initiative involving improvements to the system, Corona said. Alaska is the only state that still has such smaller outposts, while similar offices were closed long ago in the lower 48.

Other sites to be converted later to digital voices are in the U.S. 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.

Tom, Donna and Javier are a huge improvement over the first voice introduced so long ago. There was some dissatisfaction with that voice, dubbed Paul, who sounded like a Scandinavian robot. The voices used today have been better received.

"It sounds pretty good," Corona said. "It sounds like a computer, but you can understand it."

That's all that matters to Lucas Stotts, the Nome harbormaster. That and getting weather updates as quickly and accurately as possible, he said.

Besides, he said, some humans read those reports in monotone voices anyway.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • 2 U.S. marshals, 1 NYPD detective wounded; fugitive killed in Manhattan

    2 U.S. marshals, 1 NYPD detective wounded; fugitive killed in Manhattan

    Monday, July 28 2014 4:33 PM EDT2014-07-28 20:33:33 GMT
    Two deputy U.S. marshals, an NYPD detective, and a sexual assault suspect have been shot in a shootout in the West Village in Manhattan, officials said. The shootout happened near West 4th Street and Jones Street. Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the marshals and cop were taken to a local hospital with apparently non-life threatening injuries.
    Two deputy U.S. marshals, an NYPD detective, and a sexual assault suspect have been shot in a shootout in the West Village in Manhattan, officials said. The shootout happened near West 4th Street and Jones Street. Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the marshals and cop were taken to a local hospital with apparently non-life threatening injuries.
  • Massive brawl at NJ wedding

    Massive brawl at NJ wedding

    Monday, July 28 2014 2:24 PM EDT2014-07-28 18:24:34 GMT
    As many as 300 people became involved in a massive brawl at a New Jersey wedding hall that ended with two arrests on Sunday night.  Middletown police say that the fight broke out at about 10:30 p.m. at the Jacques Reception Hall on Palmer Ave. in Middletown.
    As many as 300 people became involved in a massive brawl at a New Jersey wedding hall that ended with two arrests on Sunday night.  Middletown police say that the fight broke out at about 10:30 p.m. at the Jacques Reception Hall on Palmer Ave. in Middletown.
  • Accused Long Island cop killer found guilty

    Accused Long Island cop killer found guilty

    Monday, July 28 2014 12:49 PM EDT2014-07-28 16:49:08 GMT
    An ex-convict suspected of gunning down a Nassau County police officer and then fatally shooting a carjacking victim was found guilty on all counts in the murders on Monday. Darrell Fuller, 33, shot and killed Police Officer Arthur Lopez in October 2012 who suspected he had been involved in a hit-and-run car accident. Authorities said Fuller then fled that shooting and killed the second victim, Raymond Facey of Queens, while stealing his vehicle.
    An ex-convict suspected of gunning down a Nassau County police officer and then fatally shooting a carjacking victim was found guilty on all counts in the murders on Monday. Darrell Fuller, 34, shot and killed Police Officer Arthur Lopez in October 2012 who suspected he had been involved in a hit-and-run car accident. Authorities said Fuller then fled that shooting and killed the second victim, Raymond Facey of Queens, while stealing his vehicle.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices