WEATHER BALLOONS – The Science Behind Balloons & Radiosondes
Nicholas Dunn, Co-Lead Forecaster/Reporter for Ohio News & Weather
Columbus, OH – One Central Ohio resident in the Circleville area got an interesting weather instrument to land in Hargus Lake today called a radiosonde. Where did it come from? It came from a weather balloon.
You never know what you’ll find floating around Hargus Lake while kayaking. Weather instruments that either fell from a balloon or crash landed. The balloon wasn’t attached, said Larry Grote Jr.
This morning, a weather balloon was launched form our local National Weather Service Office in Wilmington, Ohio. The National Weather Service takes care of issuing watches, warnings, and advisories. However, they also are responsible for launching weather balloons to get readings of what our atmosphere looks like twice a day across various offices in the country. Wilmington launches one in the morning, and one in the evening. This data is fed into model data which we use to analyze and make forecasts.
Weather balloons are made of latex or synthetic rubber and are filled with hydrogen or helium. Once filled, a radiosonde is attached with a parachute before it is launched. A radiosonde measures temperature, wind, humidity, and pressure from the ground up to the top of the atmosphere. The balloon starts as about six feet in diameter before expanding to about twenty feet and then bursting. The radiosonde transmits data back to a computer at the National Weather Service. The parachute brings the radiosonde down to Earth, landing in a randomized location.
Radiosondes are harmless, but if you find one in your yard you may wonder what it is. There is absolutely zero harm in them, and there are instructions for mailing them back to be reused. Only 20% of them are sent back on average each year according to the National Weather Service. Weather balloons serve as a primary source for weather data in the United States, and without them forecasting weather would be next to impossible.
MORE INFO: Check out more information about weather balloons by checking out this link!