Valley office of National Weather Service helping forecasters track Hurricane Irma

Valley office of National Weather Service helping forecasters track Hurricane Irma
World-Herald News Service

A handful of National Weather Services offices in the central United States, including the office in Valley, are playing a part in monitoring power-packed Hurricane Irma.

The Midwest offices, which usually launch their daily data-collecting weather balloons every 12 hours, are stepping up the pace. Officials said the offices are launching every six hours. The additional data help weather service meteorologists to the southeast of Omaha with their hurricane-track forecasts.

Weather systems currently in the central United States, which are being observed by the extra weather-balloon launches, will move east, eventually interacting with Hurricane Irma after it reaches U.S. soil, the Valley office said.

A better understanding of those weather systems, while they’re situated in the Midwest and moving eastward, helps meteorologists and their computer models get a leg up on Irma’s path, officials said.

The extra launches will continue until Irma leaves U.S. soil or weakens.

“It’s extra work for us, but that’s OK,’’ a statement from the Valley office said. “We are here 24/7/365 anyway. It’s our small part to help our colleagues and fellow citizens who are being impacted directly by Irma.’’

The Valley office said the balloons, which remain aloft for 90 minutes to two hours, send signals back to the weather service offices that include temperatures, winds and humidity. That information is passed to a weather service supercomputer in Maryland that maps the atmosphere and creates weather models.

The balloons rise to 80,000 to 100,000 feet before deflating and slowly falling downwind, the Valley office said. About 25 percent of the balloons, which include return instructions, are found by citizens. Occasionally, the Valley office said, the balloons can return to action.

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