Alaska has some of the most severe and rapidly changing weather in the country. To help pilots determine when and where it's safe to fly, the FAA has deployed 230 weather cameras across the region.
The program improves safety and efficiency by providing pilots with near real-time, visual weather information. The camera images are updated every 10 minutes and have been critical to help pilots make better safety decisions. The program also helps aircraft operators save fuel by eliminating situations where pilots take off only to find they have to return due to bad weather.
Each of the weather cameras is identified by a point on the map. Several camera angle views are available for most of the cameras.
The FAA program began in 1999 after the agency determined that pilots operating under Visual Flight Rules would benefit from actual views of current weather conditions. The FAA installed the 100th weather camera in May 2009 and the 150th in 2011. Technicians installed the 230th and final weather camera in July 2016 in Quinhagak.
The cameras are positioned to view sky conditions around airports and air routes as well as extreme mountain passes such as the Anaktuvuk Pass on Alaska's northern slope. The most remote camera site is at Misty Fiords, in the tidal zone of the Behm Canal in the Misty Fiords National Monument. It is located approximately 52 water-miles from the nearest harbor at Ketchikan, Alaska, and normally is accessed only by boat. The site is powered by solar and wind generators and the images are sent back to Anchorage via satellite.
More than three-quarters of Alaskan communities have no access to highways or roads and depend on aviation for access to food, mail, jobs, schools, medical services and travel. For these communities, small aircraft are essential to everyday life.
General aviation, air tour operators, passenger and cargo airlines use the cameras.
Moving Forward – the 21st Century
The success of the Alaska Weather Camera program has spawned interest in the lower 48 states. The State of Colorado entered into a cost reimbursement program with the FAA to install weather cameras on 13 of their mountain Automated Weather Observing Systems beginning in the spring of 2020. Colorado pilots soon will be able to see weather conditions high in the Rockies right before they take off from the airport.