A weather or sounding balloon is a balloon (specifically a type of high-altitude balloon) that carries instruments aloft to send back information on atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed by means of a small, expendable measuring device called a radiosonde. To obtain wind data, they can be tracked by radar, radio direction finding, or navigation systems (such as the satellite-based Global Positioning System, GPS).
Balloons meant to stay at a constant altitude for long periods of time are known as transosondes. Weather balloons that do not carry an instrument pack are used to determine upper-level winds and the height of cloud layers. For such balloons, a theodolite or total station is used to track the balloon’s azimuth and elevation, which are then converted to estimated wind speed and direction and/or cloud height, as applicable.
One of the first person to use weather balloons was Léon Teisserenc de Bort, the French meteorologist. Starting in 1896 he launched hundreds of weather balloons from his observatory in Trappes, France. These experiments led to his discovery of the tropopause and stratosphere. Transosondes, weather balloons with instrumentation meant to stay at a constant altitude for long periods of time to help diagnose radioactive debris from atomic fallout, were experimented with in 1958.
Weather balloons are launched around the world for observations used to diagnose current conditions as well as by human forecasters and computer models for weather forecasting. About 800 locations around the globe do routine releases, twice daily, usually at 0000 UTC and 1200 UTC. Some facilities will also do occasional supplementary “special” releases when meteorologists determine there is a need for additional data between the 12-hour routine launches in which time much can change in the atmosphere. Military and civilian government meteorological agencies such as the National Weather Service in the US typically launch balloons, and by international agreements almost all the data are shared with all nations.
After they are launched, they can drift up to 120 miles downwind and up to 100,000 ft. (about 20 miles) into the atmosphere.
The weather balloons are made of a synthetic rubber called neoprene or latex. The sides are about 0.051 mm thick before release and will be only 0.0025 mm thick at typical bursting altitudes! The balloons, which start out measuring about 6 ft. wide before release, expand as they rise to about 20 ft. in diameter! A parachute, attached to the end of the balloon, allows the radiosonde to fall slowly to the ground at speeds less than 22 mph after the balloon bursts.
The radiosonde will typically have a bag and instructions attached if you happen to find one. According to Weather Service, only 1 out of 5 radiosonde released are recovered. However, if you do find one, please return it because they can be reconditioned and used. This saves us all money. Below is a photo of a radiosonde.
Our active weather pattern will continue today on through most of the rest of the week. We had 1.08 inches of rain yesterday in Otsego – Storm chances increase tonight and tomorrow with more rain with perhaps another couple inches in store. You can keep track on the forecast page where the data is auto updated. Below are the SPC graphics for today and tomorrow. We are in the general storm outlook for today and there is a marginal risk for tomorrow.
Seven Day Forecast
A pollen count tells us how much pollen is in the air at a certain time. Pollen counts are generally taken with an air-sampling device, such as a rotorod. The device uses sticky rods that test the air on a regular basis. Every 24 hours or so, these rods are then examined for the number of pollen grains covering the rod. The count is then converted into units of grains per cubic meter of air. Fortunately, these measurements are eventually calculated into an amount that makes sense to the general public: low, moderate, or high.
Warm, dry, and windy conditions have high pollen levels, while rain or cool weather dramatically drops pollen levels. The spring season is typically when pollen levels are highest, when grasses and trees are in full force. Below is a video explaining its use.
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