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Buehner, Ted

Buehner, Ted

NOAA Meteorologist Pacific Northwest Residents Count On

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Does it really rain all the time in Seattle? While some Seattleites groan over this question, Ted Buehner is glad to tell you. He is the warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Seattle area forecast office. Communicating about meteorology is a longtime passion of Buehner’s who joined NWS in 1977. 

 

Why is your work important?

It is all about helping save lives and property, the National Weather Service’s primary mission. It is also about enhancing people’s lives, whether through their work, daily activities, or recreation. Here in the Pacific Northwest, many people spend their recreation time outdoors, fishing, hunting, hiking, and in other sports. Knowing the weather forecast is a key factor in all of these outdoor activities.

How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

Our Seattle forecast office is located on the NOAA Sand Point Seattle campus, one of the largest NOAA facilities in the country. For many years, NOAA offices on the campus have worked together to help share what NOAA does and what it offers to the community through a variety of events. For instance, we just completed a one-NOAA booth at the Pacific Marine Expo – the largest industrial marine show in the Pacific basin. The booth provided information from the National Ocean Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the National Weather Service. Other recent events include the NOAA Science Lecture Series held at the Pacific Science Center last fall and the NOAA Science Camp held each summer for 7th and 8th graders.

"Weather is ever changing, always challenging, and never boring."

In my presentations, I like to inject humor to help engage the audience. That helps them retain the information I offer. Over time, I learned how to work with our area media. They are a major disseminator of NOAA information to the community, and a key partner in our efforts. With so many people moving to the Pacific Northwest, it is important to reach out to them and inform them of the wide variety of hazardous weather here – flooding, wind storms, snow, heat, wildfires, and even tornadoes – countering the impression that all it does here is rain.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

Weather is ever changing, always challenging, and never boring. That is what makes weather forecasting so much fun. Plus, so many people express their appreciation for helping them to be better prepared, among them the emergency management community, the marine community, and people on the street using our weather forecast information in their daily lives. As a warning coordination meteorologist, I get the opportunity to work with our partners and customers, learning what their needs and requirements are and then helping meet those needs through our weather products and services. The positive feedback we get is quite rewarding.

Where do you do most of your work?

In the Seattle Weather Forecast Office and on the road. I meet with organizations such as the Washington Tsunami Working Group and the State Emergency Alert System Coordinating Committee, as well as with state and local government officials and managers. There are many outreach and education events as well for our Skywarn weather spotter volunteers. These gatherings help us improve our products and services. I also work forecast shifts and assist during our significant events including our on-line weather briefings for key community decision makers before and during significant weather events.

What in your office could you not live without?

These days, the computer. It’s essential for my work in the forecast office and for doing presentations and web site demonstrations at meetings.

If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be? Why?

Forecast models have come a long way since I joined the National Weather Service in 1977. The results they produce today are so much more accurate. Enhanced computer power and capabilities helped make that happen. So to answer this question, even more enhanced computer power for atmospheric models to produce even more accurate and consistent results in both the short-term and as well as longer-term. Those results would help us produce even better forecasts and warnings.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in science?

When I was quite young. Many of us in the National Weather Service get interested in the weather profession as the result of some significant event in their youth, like a tornado or hurricane. For me, it was the 1962 Columbus Day Storm which struck Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. That wind storm was the strongest non-tropical wind storm to hit the lower 48 in American history. I was living in the Portland, Oregon, area at the time and the storm with winds well over 100 mph had a big impact on me. Following the storm, I asked my mom why the storm happened, read books, and got hooked. I was practicing weather forecasts by the time I was 10 and knew I wanted to become a meteorologist.

How did you become interested in communicating about science?

I enjoy telling people about the weather and the science behind it. This passion goes back again to my youth. When I was a senior in high school, the earth sciences teacher asked me to do the weather segment for the sophomore science class, giving me the opportunity to share that weather passion in the classroom. I even built the high school its first weather station, integrating it into the weather segment teaching materials.

What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for a young person exploring career options?

Exposing young people to different career options helps them discover their passion, even if they did not know they had it to begin with. One book that all of us – young and old – can learn and use throughout our lives is Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed by Harvey Coleman. The book helps you understand organizations and how to find career success within them.

What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

The administrative stuff. Forecasting and serving our partners and customers is where the rewarding fun is. Unappealing as paperwork is, having also worked at a regional office and with the fine folks at headquarters, I know it is necessary to help the overall forecast and warning process work well.

Do you have an outside hobby?

Yes, I have many. One goes back to my youth and learning about service – the game of golf. As a youngster, I was a caddie at a country club, packing golf bags, and in turn, learning what service is. By the time I was in high school, I had moved up into the pro shop and learned more about service. I still play the game today and host an annual Pacific Northwest Weather Scramble event, bringing our partners together for fun and networking. I have been a baseball umpire since I was 16. Since the late 1970s, I have worked high school and college games, including two years working as a Pac-10 official in the early 1990s. Just last season, I got to work a high school game at a special event in Safeco Field (where the Seattle Mariners play) – quite a thrill. I also have worked several fantasy baseball camps in Arizona, including the Mariners camp.

What would you be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

I enjoy working with people in the emergency management community. I imagine working an emergency management type job is what I would do if I was not with NOAA.

 

In addition to his Seattle post, he also served one year in Boise as a forecaster, six years in Portland as a lead forecaster, and two years at the National Weather Service Western Region Headquarters in Salt Lake City as the Western U.S. marine, public, and aviation program manager. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in atmospheric sciences from Oregon State University.  

 
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