Monday, October 30, 2006

Field Trip - National Weather Service

We visited the Spokane office of the National Weather Service with some other families from our homeschool co-op on Friday. We learned a lot about weather and what is involved in forecasting weather. The meteorologist who was our tour guide was very friendly and enthusiastic. He showed us a bunch of different satellite images and dramatic photographs. And then we found out that many of them are available on the NWS website! My kids want me to "put that website on their computer"! (We have the internet blocked on their computer, except for websites that their dad or I approve.) I think that's great! They can learn a lot by exploring the site, and then keep us up-to-date on the weather forecasts. Oh... and by the way, it's weather.gov, not weather.com. The .com site is the Weather Channel, which is fine, but it does have ads. The .gov site is the NWS and you don't have to worry about ads.

We also discovered that the NWS is who broadcasts the weather radio station that the kids discovered on one of the channels of their walkie-talkies.

The highlight of the field trip was at 4:00 p.m. when we got to watch them release a weather balloon. I have seen weather balloons occasionally, but I never knew they were released twice a day, every day, all over the world at the same time! (I think the guy said 1,100.) There is a small styrofoam box, about the size of a shoebox, tied to the bottom of the balloon with instruments to gauge things like temperature, wind, and moisture. The balloon is bigger than I thought it would be. Maybe the size of a bean-bag chair, if a bean-bag chair was inflated? They track the balloon for an hour-and-a-half. They said it usually travels 150 miles or so before it "pops". The box has a label on it so if anyone finds it, they will know to return it to the NWS. Our guide said that about 15% are returned. He estimated that it costs about $300 for each balloon that is released!

Speaking of weather, we had our first snow of the year last night and it's still on the ground this morning! Maybe a half inch or so. The kids are excited. I dread driving in it.

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