December 11, 2013 | Volume 100 / Number 50

NWS: On Watch For A Change In The Weather

With winter weather advisories in effect, snow and ice covering the roads and concerns with the amount of precipitation that falls in the local area, many turn to the local National Weather Service to predict what might be coming. Glasgow is lucky to have the weather service headquartered here for the Northeastern Montana area.

BLM / For The Courier
Rex Morgan releases a weather balloon into the air to help the local weather station collect data that allow them to more accurately forecast the weather over the next seven to ten days. With more winter weather on the way, employees at the Glasgow National Weather Service will be busy watching screens and sending out weather advisories.

Tanja Fransen, warning coordination meteorologist, explained that the there has been some form of weather service in Glasgow for many years, as far back as 1887. Last week as sub-zero temperatures hit the area, a crew of engineers and scientists, sitting at the top of the hill, next to the airport, were working to predict what's coming next.

"In Valley County there's two forecast zones," she said. "Phillips County is also broken up. But here in Glasgow we might only see slight snow and in St. Marie you might see more snow fall and stronger winds."

The local station forecasts the weather for the upcoming week. They also release a weather report two times a day. Fransen said that in an area with lots of agriculture and flooding worries, the locals turn to their forecasts to help predict what the weather may bring. She said that there are 83 stations in Montana collecting data, some with volunteers. They are all collecting high and low temperatures, precipitation, temperature and snow depth.

"We also have a river gage that has to be manually checked on the Milk River off the bridge to Fort Peck," Fransen said. "We can give hours of warnings and up to 45 minutes warning on severe thunderstorms."

Part of the weather service responsibilities is to provide educations to the local community. Fransen explained that when the flood of 2011 came to the area, they had several meetings in the community and were able to let specific houses know that they would be in the flood. She also said that they are looking for more feedback from the local residents on how they might be doing.

Another possible common sight from the weather station is a balloon that lifts off twice a day. Rex Morgan explained that the balloons can land in a large radius depending on winds. With the global shortage of hydrogen and rising costs, the balloons lift off with hydrogen. Morgan explained that even though instructions on how to return the balloon are located within the small Styrofoam box, only 2 percent ever make it back to the station.

What's most important isn't the return of the box. As it travels, up to 30 miles or more, it sends back data to the weather station. The balloon sends back atmospheric pressure, moisture and other vital information that helps the weather center predict the upcoming forecasts.

The upcoming forecast for the week can be found at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/ggw/cli/7day_cli_snw.php or by looking here in The Glasgow Courier. The upcoming week shows sun on the way and temperatures finally on the rise after a week of subzero temperatures. Clearly, the forecast calls for heavy coats and caution when working and traveling outdoors.

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