National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
David Barber

Location: Anchorage, AK
Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) and Anchorage Volcanic Ash Advisory Center

Job Title: Meteorologist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Master’s Degree in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Doctorate in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Master of Divinity Degree from Duke University

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • Student Trainee, United States Weather Bureau (Cleveland, OH)
  • Meteorologist, National Severe Storms Forecast Center (Kansas City, MO)
  • Meteorologist, United States Weather Bureau (Anchorage, AK)
  • Meteorology Instructor, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Assistant Professor of Meteorology, Oregon State University
  • Assistant Professor of Meteorology, North Carolina State University
  • Associate Pastor/Pastor (Raleigh, NC and Fort Worth, TX)
  • Volunteer, National Weather Service (Fort Worth, TX)
  • Meteorologist Intern, National Weather Service (Rapid City, SD)
  • Meteorologist, Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (Anchorage, AK)

What do you do for the NWS?

  • I work in the AAWU making graphical and text forecasts of icing, turbulence, surface winds, convection, ceilings, and visibility for the entire state of AK and surrounding ocean waters. I produce Airman's Meteorological Information (AIRMETs) and Significant Meteorological Information (SIGMETs) to warn of especially dangerous flying conditions. I also produce Volcanic Ash Advisories (VAAs) and associated SIGMETs warning of the presence of volcanic ash over our area of responsibility.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • The 'Shutdown Blizzard' of October 2013, called that because it happened during the federal government shutdown and because it totally shut down Rapid City. I worked forecaster training shifts that week, doing an extended forecast on Monday that included the potential for the storm. I relieved one of the other forecasters so he could concentrate on the storm during the following days; our forecasts were excellent. From 7am Friday to 1pm on Sunday, I was snowed in at the office and issued forecasts and warnings.

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • My early fascination with meteorology and weather forecasting, starting in 8th grade led to my being mentored through a high school science program by an outstanding forecaster among many then at the Cleveland Weather Bureau office, John McClain. My excitement about meteorology was fed and nurtured by a teaching-oriented faculty at the University of Wisconsin, including Reid Bryson and Lyle Horn. Later, my interest in daily weather fed my spirit even while away from meteorology. To work for the federal government is an honor I cherish.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I have been privileged to work with well-educated, motivated people in every NWS office: from the best forecasters in the world of their day at Cleveland, to the special breed of folks at the National Severe Storms Forecast Center, to those at Anchorage, to the extraordinary severe weather-tuned people in Fort Worth, to the sharp forecasters and extraordinary SOO, Matt Bunkers, at Rapid City, to those who provide dedicated service in my present setting. Good forecasters; good people.

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • Start with a combination of good math skills and background together with a fascination for the weather and a drive to understand it and you can do well. A desire to have what you do make a contribution to society through the service of others will ensure satisfaction in your work.

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • The prescribed course work including heavy emphasis on math and physics as well as a good grounding in general meteorology, dynamic meteorology, synoptic meteorology--tightly tied to the dynamics, some background in climatology, including the application of statistics, and a bit of cloud physics. A strong background in computer use and programming is essential as well. Additional coursework in sociology and psychology will help too!