Eliminating five of the nine employees at the Bjørnøya Meteorological Station and automating operations at the Hopen station where four people now work is being considered by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute to help cope with a long-term deficit, according to the agency’s director.
The cutbacks are among a series of measures being considered – including eliminating the meteorologists appearing on national TV news broadcasts – as the institute is projecting an annual loss of at about 15 million kroner through at least 2020, Director Roar Skålin told ABC Nyheter. He said the shortfall is due primarily to the weak krone exchange rate and necessary investments that had to be taken from the operating budget.
“We are not yet economically fit,” he said.
Reducing staff at Bjørnøya and automating operations at Hopen could save up to nine million kroner annually, Skålin told the network. However, he acknowledged scaling back the staff at Bjørnøya could affect the delivery of aviation weather data to Avinor, although authorization from the Civil Aviation Authority to automate such transfers could resolve that.
The meteorological institute is also assessing the station at Jan Mayen, where four employees of the agency and 14 from the Norwegian Cyber Defense Force are the island’s only inhabitants, according to the military magazine Forsvarets Forum.
“Jan Mayen is located in an area where there is a lot of low pressure that reaches Norway, but the need for dedicated meteorological personnel is no longer perceived as strong by the institute,” Skålin told the magazine. “It may be possible to establish an automated solution if the technical personnel there can assist when needed.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes the any closure of weather stations in the Arctic will not affect Norwegian sovereignty in the area, Guri Solberg, a ministry spokesperson, wrote in an e-mail to ABC Nyheter.
“Norwegian sovereignty over these islands does not depend on their presence,” she wrote. “Activity and presence on the aforementioned islands are assessed according to professional needs.”