Conditions at Penn State Weather Camp: Mostly curious

UNIVERSITY PARK — Bill Syrett counted down, and more than 40 pairs of eyes turned to the clouds.

Balloon Launch Weather Camp June 2014

Isabella Scott, 14, of Richboro, ties a string around the weather balloon after it's filled with helium. Penn State is hosting its annual weather camp this week. Campers experience many activities related to weather forecasting including a weather balloon launch, June 23, 2014. NABIL K. MARK - CDT photo

By Chris Rosenblum  June 23, 2014 

“Let her rip,” said the Penn State meteorologist and Penn State Weather Camp director.

Andrew Johnson-Levine did as he was told.

To cheers, he released a helium-filled red weather balloon that shot up as his fellow campers tracked it from Walker Building’s roof.

Monday’s demonstration on the second day of the six-day camp for students in grades eight to 10 featured a latex rubber 100-gram balloon, one of the smaller versions, without its customary instrument pack.

Instead, as a meteorological exercise led by Syrett, the campers timed its ascent — using the rate of 5 meters per second — to see how high it would be upon striking the nearest cloud.

Syrett also called attention to the balloon’s direction to discuss wind patterns.

On the heels of its Advanced Weather Camp for 11th- and 12th-graders last week, Penn State’s meteorology department is holding the camp for youth interested in meteorology careers or just fascinated by weather conditions and phenomena.

“To let them know there are other kids who share their passion for bad weather,” Syrett said.

It’s the 14th year for the summer weather camps.

“We started this because I would have loved something like this as a kid, just to realize there are other people like me,” Syrett said.

About a third of this week’s participants hail from Pennsylvania, with the rest traveling from 16 states as far away as California and Washington.

During the camp in the Joel N. Myers Weather Center on the sixth floor of Walker, they’ll study different aspects of weather, learn to take measurements, analyze charts and maps and use forecast models to make predictions. The week also includes a chance to make a TV weathercast.

On Monday, the students took a field trip to the local National Weather Service office in Penn State’s Innovation Park. Before returning home, they’ll visit AccuWeather’s headquarters in Ferguson Township and collect data at a weather station at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in Stone Valley.

“Hopefully, get a couple of thunderstorms, get them excited,” Syrett said.

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