The staff at the National Weather Service office in Ruskin.

By Laura Tamayo

In March of 1980, a vital part of our community was established: the Ruskin National Weather Service (NWS) office. With humble foundations and a two-employee staff, our local NWS began slow and quiet; however, as technology advanced, its role in the community amplified accordingly.

The Ruskin NWS office consists of the main operations building, an upper air inflation shelter, a WSR-88D radar (used to help predict weather) and a small maintenance building. This office is responsible for covering weather across 15 counties in West and Southwest Florida, as well as coastal waters up to 60 miles from the shore.

“We observe the weather with geostationary and polar orbiting environmental satellites, weather radar, automated surface observing systems, buoys, lightning detection networks and radiosondes,” said Warning Coordinator Meteorologist Daniel Noah.

Don’t know what radiosondes are? (Neither did I!) Noah explained by discreetly clarifying them as “water balloons.”

Open 24/7, the staff rotates shifts, separating each day into two to three parts. Among the 24 total employees, 19 are meteorologists, who use scientific models and technology to predict weather conditions; three are electronic technicians, who keep the office and field equipment running; one is an administrative assistant; and one is a regional facilities employee.

Together, this group paints the smaller details surrounding West Florida’s weather and communicates them to national-level management teams in order to protect natural life and property.

The NWS has been imperative to warning the public about incoming storms and disasters. As part of the Integrated Warning Team, the office prepares for, responds to and does its best to aid the recovery from natural phenomena.

With global warming more prominent than ever, the Ruskin NWS’ reports have detected many changes within our local climate. “We have seen slowly rising sea temperatures and sea levels. The largest driver of warming is the emission of greenhouse gases, the main contributor being the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gasoline,” said Noah.

The NWS encourages citizens to take any step towards alleviating climate change, whether it be volunteering with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful or making sure all the lights are off when not being used.

To learn more about the Ruskin National Weather Service office, visit www.weather.gov/tbw/tampabayofficetour.