National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Raymond Tanabe

Location: Honolulu, HI
 Pacific Region Headquarters
Job Title: Director, Pacific Region
Raymond Tanabe
Raymond Tanabe

Educational Background:

  • I received my Bachelors and Masters Degree from the University of Hawaii, School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology.

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

  • I was fortunate enough to be selected for a summer internship with the Office of Federal Coordinator for Meteorology in Silver Spring, MD through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education in 1996. This led to a SCEP student internship at WFO Honolulu while an undergraduate and graduate student. After graduating, I started full-time at WFO Los Angeles/Oxnard in 2000. I spent three great years living in Ventura (my daughter was born in California) before returning to WFO Honolulu as a forecaster in 2003. Over the next decade, I advanced through being a Senior Forecaster, Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM), Director of Operations, and Meteorologist-In-Charge (MIC). I became the Regional Director in 2013.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • According to the official position description, as Regional Director, I have full responsibility for the discharge of essential organizational functions for the NWS in the Pacific Region field offices and in the region headquarters. Let’s rephrase this description. In my own words, it comes down to two of my inspirations, people and water (especially the ocean). If I take care of people and I take care of water, I am truly fulfilling the mission of the NWS. Behind all the paperwork, policy, and electronic signatures, that’s what I really do.

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 most meaningful event was the 1997-98 El Nino episode and its impact on the Pacific Islands. I was a SCEP student at the time and was also working for the Pacific ENSO Applications Center as a graduate research assistant. One of my activities was to collect news articles documenting impacts across the Pacific. I was disheartened by the stories…of islands completely running out of fresh water…of residents being relocated…of high surf washing over atolls…of coral bleaching…of traditional subsistence lifestyles being jeopardized…and the list went on. I was equally amazed by the resilience of Pacific Islanders and all who cared and helped, including the NWS.

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

  • We’re building a Weather Ready Pacific and Caribbean, one island at a time. Did you know the Pacific Region includes the only NWS office in the eastern hemisphere (WFO Guam), the only NWS office in the southern hemisphere (WSO Pago Pago), the only NWS offices in foreign countries (WSOs Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnei, and Majuro), and an office in Puerto Rico (Caribbean Office of the International Tsunami Information Center, formerly known as the Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program)?

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • Undoubtedly, what I enjoy most are the people and colleagues I’ve had the pleasure to work with across the country and internationally. Getting to meet them and hear their stories is a highlight of my career.

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

  • Keep your eyes and options wide open. When I started my full-time career with the NWS, my career goal was to become a WCM, which I still consider as one of the best positions in the NWS. When I became WCM 7 years later, much sooner than I anticipated, it scared me and I thought “now what”. Taking the next steps to become MIC and eventually the Director for the Pacific Region has provided me with amazing opportunities I never imagined when I first started.

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

  • Immerse yourself with the entire breadth of NWS activities and programs regardless of your position. Administrative Assistants (ASAs) should sit with meteorologists and learn about local weather, meteorologists should tag along Electronics Technicians (ETs) to learn about observations platforms, ETs should accompany the WCM on outreach events to engage with partners and the public, WCMs and (Science Operations Officers (SOOs) need to step up as acting MICs when needed to gain leadership experience, and MICs should sit alongside ASAs to understand how important the ASA is to the office. Having this full circle of experience will help you in any NWS career path you choose.