Weather is a hot topic here in Interior Alaska and a quick way to get anyone talking. Not a day goes by in winter months without some observations of temperatures, air inversions, or even a mention that the sun budged another degree above the horizon.

When it comes to predicting weather events, however, particularly the extreme events - such as harsh winds, impact from massive wildfires or ash resulting from volcanic eruptions - those who work in the field face many challenges in creating models specific for Alaska's unique environment.

The Great Alaska Weather Symposium aims to identify shortcomings in existing models and observations that deal with Alaska's changing weather patterns. Some of the topics also address research related to the International Polar Year. Sponsored by Alaska Region of the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS ) and University of Alaska Fairbanks' Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC ), College of Natural Science & Mathematics (CNSM), Geophysical Institute (GI), and International Arctic Research Center (IARC), the weather conference features presenters and attendees from UAF and other universities and research centers in the Lower 48, including the National Weather Service.

Alaska weather modeling can be used for various application purposes, said Nicole Mצlders, a member of the GI's Atmospheric Sciences Research Group and one of the symposium organizers. For example, a session on wind prediction is important for small aircrafts, ship traffic, oil spill spread in coastal waters and coastal erosion. "These are themes of great financial relevance for Alaska's economies," Mצlders said.