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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 10/24/2008

Weather Service Celebrates, Balloons and All

By Kevin Ambrose

A weather balloon is launched during the National Weather Service Open House Saturday afternoon, Oct. 18. Click here for larger photo.

When I saw the announcement about this past weekend's National Weather Service Open House in Sterling, Va., which included a dedication for the new Baltimore/Washington forecast office, I noticed there would be hourly weather balloon launches during the two-day event. I've read about weather balloons for years, but never actually seen a launch.

When I arrived, I immediately went to the launch site and took a few photos as a balloon took flight, lifting a box of weather instruments called a radiosonde.

Keep reading for more photos from the National Weather Service Open House and additional commentary. And see our full forecast for the latest on a potentially rainy Saturday.

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A weather balloon drifts upward into the sky during the Weather Service Open House. We were told that the balloon of 5-6' in diameter will expand to over 30' in diameter at 100,000 feet, before bursting. The weather instruments then float to the ground by parachute after transmitting their data by radio signals.

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The radiosonde lifted by the weather balloon. It is labeled "Harmless Weather Instrument" in red letters.

I then went to a tent and watched a SKYWARN presentation, complete with storm photos and descriptions. At another tent, I watched a show called "Weather in Music and Prose." In that show, NBC4's Bob Ryan read weather poetry and a musical group played renditions of popular songs that have weather themes. It was quite enjoyable, but I'm a weather geek, so that's to be expected.

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Bob Ryan reads the poem "Snow Storm" by Ralph Waldo Emerson to the attendees of the NWS Open House.

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Many popular songs include weather themes. The show, "Weather in Music and Prose" included many examples of these songs, accompanied by a humorous slide show of photos and graphics.

I then toured the NWS offices and later toured the Sterling Field Support Center. See the photos below to complete the story.

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The office of the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., where our local forecasts are created and issued to the public, as well as severe weather warnings.

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This is a wind meter in the Sterling Field Support Center's cold chamber that has turned into a large icicle. The temperature in the chamber was set to 18 degrees F, accompanied with a fine spray of water. Many wind meters are heated to prevent this type of ice accumulation.

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The wind tunnel at the Sterling Field Support Center is capable of producing winds up to Hurricane Category 4.

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During our demonstration of the wind tunnel, the maximum wind reached almost 145 mph.

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A distant view of the Doppler radar located at the National Weather Service office, Sterling, Va.

By Kevin Ambrose  | October 24, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Photography  
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Next: PM Update: Now for Something Different ... Rain!

Comments

Glad to see you made it! I especially liked going to the control center and seeing the massive arrays of monitors and radio sets. The Doppler was also pretty neat; I likened it to a giant soccer ball standing on stilts.

Too bad I didn't stick around for the prose and poetry session; I might have seen you snapping pictures!

Posted by: KBurchfiel | October 24, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

KBurchfiel,

The Doppler radar tower at Sterling is pretty impressive. I have just added a photo of the Doppler tower to the end of this post. I took several shots of it while at the open house.

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | October 24, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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