And on the 9th day, we indulged our inner science nerds. Well, maybe not so inner.
I’ve been known to exclaim, “When I grow up, I want to be a meteorologist.” Sadly, learning about types of clouds in elementary school did not lead me into that field that I now think would have been so interesting to study. At Purdue, the meteorolgy department was located on the top floor of the Poultry Building. I used to wander up there at night and gawk at all the charts and graphs, not having any idea what any of it meant. I got a taste of the science of meteorolgy in my air pollution classes, though what I remember most is the old saying, “dilution is the solution to pollution.” Which roughly translates to mean that in the right weather conditions, air pollution will be diluted and dispersed so that no one notices. Don’t panic, this is not how I was taught to handle air contaminants, but it was what was believed and practiced during the Industrial Revolution; if you build a tall enough smokestack, everything is fine.
But I digress. We don’t remember who suggested that we stop by the National Weather Center, but whoever you are, we thank you.
The NWC is located on the southern edge of the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman. There are approximately 550 employees of 15 different state, federal, and university agencies/departments who work in the building. You do need to sign up in advance for the tours.
Our tour guide was very knowledgable and, maybe even more important, incredibly enthusiastic! There is so much interesting stuff going on in that building. We started in the main floor lobby where they have all kinds of cool displays including: Science on a Sphere, all kinds of computer weather displays, props from the movie Twister, and right now this incredible juried art exhibit called the Biennale.
I’d seen a Science on a Sphere before at the Houston Museum of Natural Science Sugarland. There are about 70 of these systems in the US and another 50ish worldwide. They are enthralling. Here’s the one at the NWC showing global temperature deviations from normal over the past 100 yrs:
You can see some of the all weather themed art in the background there. This was one of my favorite pieces:
Then the tour went up to the top floor which is just a large open room with glass windows all around. There are tables and chairs and stools for gathering together and looking out at the weather. There was one metereology student up there studying for finals; it’s his favorite place to study because it’s usually so quiet. I think he was happy enough to take a short break while we were all up there.
Finally, we toured the second floor which houses both the National Storm Prediction Center and the Norman office of the National Weather Service. It was interesting to learn how they operate, how the focus of the two offices differ, and just how much information is also available for free public access. When I get back to my full size computer at home, I am going to be poking all around the NOAA, NWS, and SPC sites. I’ll be sure to let y’all know if I find anything interesting AND comprehendable. I’m also going to see if the local National Weather Service station in my area gives tours. Husband even said he’d go with me.
With our brains happily filled up with science, we got back in the car for a wet drive to Texas in time for a late dinner and (at least) one beer at one of three Dallas-Ft. Worth area Flying Saucers. Tomorrow we check into the Piersol Palace for a visit with D#1 and the SIL.