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Grand Junction’s National Weather Service hub forecasts & collects data

Brittany Markert
bmarkert@gjfreepress.com
Orange Weather Balloon with Parachute
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

STORM SPOTTERS WANTED

National Weather Service in Grand Junction is always looking for volunteers to help measure weather conditions, whether it’s rainfall, snowfall, and even temperature.

“Even if you live a block away from another spotter, readings could be completely different,” said Jim Pringle, warning coordination Meteorologist for Grand Junction’s National Weather Service office. “Anyone who is interested can help out.”

For more information, visit http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gjt/ and search for “spotter.”

During a tornado or severe weather threat, it’s common for children to take refuge indoors.

In his family, however, Jim Pringle was the first one racing outside to observe weird weather conditions.

“I get so excited watching lightning,” he said. “It’s a very intense phenomenon.”



Now Pringle works as a warning coordination meteorologist for National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office (2844 Aviators Way). He’s one of 5,000 employees working at 122 National Weather Service offices nationwide, and part of a regional team of 25 (with most having bachelor’s degrees in meteorology). Locally, he and his team help monitor weather conditions around the clock for an area covering 52,000 square miles — west of the Continental Divide to eastern Utah.

While some days at Grand Junction’s weather hub are quiet due to many days of sunshine, rapid weather changes and storms sometimes make the office bustle with activity. And forecasters there analyze brewing storms, plus they issue weather warnings and watches as needed.



“We are a free service to the public,” Pringle said.

SERVICES PROVIDED

The National Weather Service, a tax-paid entity, provides forecasting, data collection, river monitoring, weather warnings and more. And to predict weather patterns locally, 10 forecasters study historic and current patters to help pinpoint a seven-day forecast. Such predictions help locals and visitors plan ahead for recreation and outdoor industry — like running, biking, skiing or even farming.

“Our model is to protect lives and property and the enhancement to the national economy,” Pringle said.

While forecasters work to predict future weather patterns, current weather conditions are also observed.

“The most important thing we do is issue weather warnings,” he noted.

According to Pringle, the National Weather Service sends up a balloon with an instrument every 12 hours. The balloon travels 19 miles into the air (over 100,000 feet) and measures air temperature, wind speed, air pressures and dew points. That information is then used to forecast high- and low-pressure systems and weather movement.

Weather warnings span from advisory, watches, warnings, to statements. “Advisory” means a threat of inclement weather, “watches” communicate that a weather threat is possible, and “warnings” alert the public to bad weather already in the works.

The National Weather Service additionally monitors for flooding, and processes information regarding river flows, depth and even drought data. The Bureau of Reclamation relies on such data to forecast river flows, and how it will impact irrigation and hydropower. Aviation services also rely on National Weather Service information to provide safe travel for the hundreds of people flying in and out of Grand Junction on a daily basis.

For more information about National Weather Service, visit http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gjt.


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