Up, up and away, Houston

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Thank my viewer Calvin Brandon for today's blog -- a picture is worth a thousand blog words.

Last Wednesday, Calvin sent me this picture on Facebook, asking if I knew about a weather balloon launch: "Good morning sir. I follow your posts and cast all the time. I have a question for y’all. Did we have a weather balloon come from the West to East this morning around 8:45 am to 9am? Just checking. Here is a photo it’s in the middle of the shot in the circle."

The short answer is 'no' but I sent the photo to Dan Reilly at the National Weather Service and unless the University of Houston or A&M sent something up, no clue. In fact, the Houston office doesn't launch weather balloons and you have to go pretty far away to find an office that does. Here is the national network launching every day, twice a day:

You can see Corpus or Lake Charles are the closest to us. But the whole process got me researching, and I didn't realize that launching one balloon can take four hours of staff time! And it's done at each office twice daily! 

And then I stumbled upon an article about weather balloon launching in Alaska, where the launch network looks like this:

Not only is Alaska remote, so are the launching sites, so you can imagine how exciting an AUTOMATIC balloon launching program is! That's right! Take a look at this:

That baby can automatically launch weather balloons twice a day for TWELVE days straight before it manually has to be refilled. That's a huge saving on employee time AND it will save a million dollars a year. Given it should last a solid twenty years, that's good math! Staff will be attending to other forecasting matters so the automation doesn't take away any jobs and can, obviously, be set up in any parts of the world. If you're interested to find out more, take a look here.

I don't know how I missed this news, but I find it really exciting. This could lead to more and more balloon launches across the U.S. and, who knows, maybe even in the nation's fourth largest city!

Thanks, Calvin, for the initial question that got me researching!!

Have a great weekend and get ready for a cold one next Wednesday morning!

Shout out to my buddy, Ryan Korsgard -- he's getting married tomorrow and I have the honor of officiating!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Aaron Barker has been a senior digital editor at KPRC 2 since 2016. As a meteorologist, he specializes in stories about the weather. He has covered Hurricane Harvey, the Astros first World Series win, the Santa Fe High School shooting, the ITC fire and Tropical Storm Imelda.