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Whimsical Weather

I’m just going to come out and say it.

Last week I launched a giant weather balloon miles into the sky and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  There.  Now that I have it off my chest,  I can begin to go into a little more detail about the weather adventure us volunteers had last week.

Pure, unadulterated childlike happiness right here.

When a friend at the National Weather Service called the station last week during my Late Afternoon Show, we volunteers were invited to come out and launch a weather balloon sometime in the future.  At the risk of sounding way too eager, I called him back the very next morning and made us an appointment to come out that very day for a launch.  I mean, when you are given the chance to fill up a balloon the size of elephant’s head, you should just go for it.   Not only will this experience be one of the few times you get to maneuver enough helium to make you feel like you’re going to lift right up into the air a ‘la some Banksy art piece, it’s also the chance to snag a peek at just how weather information is received.   Afterall, weather is a big part of KNOM’s programming.  No one wants to be out kayaking during a small craft advisory, and a sudden winter storm could put more than an uncomfortable damper on a hike.  Western Alaska depends on accurate weather forecasts and current conditions to live safely and productively in this very unique part of the world.

Before heading out with the Weather Service guys, I wasn’t exactly sure what a weather balloon was.  I figured that thinking it was a giant balloon that acted as a conveyance for gathering weather information seemed way to simple.  I was expecting some kind of only slight balloon-esque contraption complete with propellers, antennae, and possibly some kind of futuristic looking doppler radar.  Wrong.  It’s just a balloon with what looks like a take-out box of sesame chicken attached by a string.  Okay, I’m probably under emphasizing the technology behind all of this, nonetheless, the launch was a simple process free of the propeller and doppler gadgetry I was expecting.

At the end of the day, I was just excited to be holding a giant balloon.  I love it when whimsy meets practicality.


*Thanks to Margaret for being a wonderful photographer!



  1. Stephen Kearney on December 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Nice work, Josh! I used to work for the NWS in Nome a few years ago, and I launched balloons regularly. These pictures bring back a lot of memories. Your next test: Launch a balloon at night in a blizzard!

  2. Josh on December 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Whoa. Sounds intense. I can’t wait to go back and launch another one. It was a blast!