Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Up, Up and Away!

That's what weather balloons do! They go up, up, and away.(Well I guess up, up, and pop!) Weather balloons are high altitude balloons that record pressure, temperature, humidity, and winds at different levels of the atmosphere.

But how exactly do they work? The balloon provides the lift and has a radiosonde attached to the bottom of the string. The radiosonde gathers the meteorological parameters as the balloon rises through the atmosphere and then transmits them back to a fixed receiver at the National Weather Service or the agency that launched the balloon.

All the information (temperature, wind speed, etc.) are then plotted versus pressure or height to give us details on the vertical structure of the atmosphere. It is called a SkewT, but is also known as an upper air sounding. They are a forecasting tool, especially helpful for predicting severe weather and winter precipitation types. The data is also used in forecast models, which helps us put together our 7 day forecast.

There are 800 locations around the world that release balloons twice a day. It is usually the National Weather Service, but other agencies can launch them too. The National Weather Service in Peachtree City launches a weather balloon and that is the sounding that we use here in Macon.

On a related note, there was a weather balloon launched here in Macon recently. Check out the story: http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local_story.aspx?storyid=75438


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