October 27, 2012 in City

Local weather station balloons aid nationwide data collection

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:weather
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Meteorologist Ty Judd of the National Weather Service prepares the rigging of a weather balloon Thursday at the weather station on the West Plains.
(Full-size photo)

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Meteorologists on Spokane’s West Plains are taking part in a nationwide effort to better predict the strength and location of a massive storm approaching the East Coast.

The National Hurricane Center is enlisting the help of weather stations in 48 states for the first time to collect the best prediction data possible. Spokane’s station is included in that list and is releasing extra weather balloons to study the current atmosphere.

The extra launch of balloons started on Thursday, said Steven Van Horn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane. Typically, balloons are launched twice a day, but the weather service planned to unleash an additional two a day through today to improve weather data for the widespread observation.

“We’re trying to get some better consistency and put out a better forecast for that hurricane,” Van Horn said. “It’ll improve our confidence on the strength of the hurricane and where it might make landfall.”

The weather balloons, launched at the same time across the country, relay electronic data for temperature, wind speed and atmospheric pressure. Local balloons will track weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest that could potentially affect Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to meet up with two other storm systems on the East Coast early next week.

The National Hurricane Center is checking on a short wave of cold air in the Inland Northwest that’s expected to move across the country, said spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

“Turns out the extra energy in the atmosphere will be getting stronger as it catches up with Sandy,” Feltgen said.

Feltgen calls it a butterfly effect, since the atmosphere moves from west to east. The cold air will possibly give the hurricane more energy to work with.

The hurricane’s speed is expected to increase today and move toward the Northeast. The Category 1 storm is expected to sustain winds that could weaken during the next day or so but bring heavy rain to the Eastern coastal regions of the United States.

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