“Welcome to the end of the world”
January 30, 2021 2:09 PM   Subscribe

Monitoring the Weather at the Edge of the World. It all started with a single sentence in a blog post about Iceland: “A farmer is looking for support at a weather station and sheep farm.”
posted by Ahmad Khani (11 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Truly top-tier photography from Marzena Skubatz.
posted by justinethanmathews at 5:33 PM on January 30, 2021

I couldn't stand the sheep, but I can do the weather station. Call me?
posted by aramaic at 6:33 PM on January 30, 2021

Every three hours, day and night, no matter the weather, Billa checks the readings on the weather instruments at her station and relays them to the office in Reykjavik.

Imagine never getting more than 3 continuous hours of sleep for your entire life. I suppose after a while you learn to do the work half-consciously and go right back to sleep again.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:40 PM on January 30, 2021

I'm kind of wondering about the "Given the region’s harsh conditions, automation wouldn’t be possible" bit, because automated systems work in a lot of very harsh areas. I could see why it might need someone on site to fix things due to a high rate of degradation, and there might be extreme conditions where you need to keep watch, but I really have trouble believing that someone actually has to hand-read every three hours all year round.

I mean, Mount Washington has automated weather stations, and they used that as a test platform for the automated stations they set up on Everest.
posted by tavella at 12:03 AM on January 31, 2021 [4 favorites]

Yeah, it’s probably a combination of: this way works, why change, and an automated system would cost money — this system is essentially free.

... to be honest, if they gave me that job, first thing I would to do would be secretly replace it with an automated station.
posted by aramaic at 9:34 AM on January 31, 2021 [2 favorites]

Imagine never getting more than 3 continuous hours of sleep for your entire life. I suppose after a while you learn to do the work half-consciously and go right back to sleep again.

Might be why she finally asked for help - they could take turns, or even shifts. It's like having a newborn baby forever.
posted by Mogur at 12:12 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's a couple hundred people at Canada's north station, Alert, though most of them are military. But there are a few Environment (and Climate Change) Canada folks up there from the Met service. From what I understand, it's a pretty highly sought after post, though rotations tend to be short. It's also pretty high tech in terms of automation, from what I understand.
posted by bonehead at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2021

There are still people in Alert? I was there in '80 as a laborer. Definitely the toughest environment I've ever worked in.
posted by Mogur at 3:46 PM on January 31, 2021

Came here to say "WTF" about the readings every three hours day and night. That is what machines are for. Ms. Erlendsdottir is evidently a woman of an age to have borne now-adult children and outlived a husband, who has apparently been living with people doing this her entire life so doubtless it seems entirely normal to her. Dropping everything every three hours to go look at meters and read gauges is no way for a human person to live, and we need not encourage future generations to follow this particular example. I sincerely hope there's a program to replace people like Ms. Erlendsdottir with automation as they die off.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 6:05 AM on February 1, 2021

The readings are done in shifts. Currently, the system is such that Aðalheiður takes readings at midnight and at three in the morning, and Marsibil takes readings at six and nine in the morning.

Incidentally, you should refer to Icelanders by their given name, not their patronym. It gets a bit more complicated for the roughly five percent of Icelanders who have family names, but you can never go wrong by using the given name.
posted by Kattullus at 2:10 PM on February 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

To be fair, while Mount Washington has automated stations, the main observatory apparently does check the instrumentation every hour, partially because using the same methods and types of instruments helps keep the 100+ years of weather records consistent and a better gauge of climate change. But they have an actual staff and shift work so it's not unreasonable. I'm pretty sure if they couldn't maintain their six person observer staff they'd switch over to fully automated, not expect a single person to do it all.
posted by tavella at 4:25 PM on February 1, 2021

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