53 Astounding Weather Balloon Facts That No One Knows

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Outdoor & NatureLearn more
One of the best weather balloon facts is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or the NOAA, uses weather balloons for weather measurement.

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To predict the weather, it is imperative that we know the weather conditions prevailing in the upper atmosphere with the help of the weather balloon.

Military and civilian organizations make use of weather balloons. The National Weather Service (NWS) in the US launches these weather balloons regularly and shares the obtained data with the world for further use and interpretation.

A weather balloon, also known as a sounding balloon, is a specialized balloon that's used in high-altitude conditions. This balloon carries with it a set of instruments to measure weather parameters such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity. Here's some more information about this fascinating balloon.

The Invention Of The Weather Balloon

A balloon not filled with air but some special gas that collects information as it flies is what is called a typical weather balloon. Here are some facts relating to its invention.

The invention of this balloon pioneered the use of remote sensing technology, through which people could effortlessly collect information without physically being present.

Atmospheric research was greatly enhanced by the invention of weather balloons.

Cosmologists and astronomers are avid users of such high-altitude balloons.

These balloons take readings of disturbances from the troposphere and frequencies of particles for weather calculations.

Marquis d'Arlandes and Jean-François de Rozier, two Frenchmen, flew the first manned balloon.

The weather observation balloon was launched immediately after this manned balloon flight on November 21, 1783.

The first weather balloon gave pre-flight wind readings.

Léon Teisserenc de Bort pioneered the usage of weather balloons.

Léon Teisserenc de Bort was a French meteorologist, who clearly described the utility of the weather balloon.

With the data that Léon Teisserenc de Bort acquired initially, he explained the existence of a low-level atmosphere that he termed the troposphere.

The troposphere is also called the sphere of change, as this region is where weather changes take place.

After the invention of radio-tracking systems in the '30s, balloons have been used as floating weather stations.

These balloons are called floating weather stations as numerous weather-measuring instruments such as barometers, telescopes, thermometers, and cameras are installed to aid the balloon in taking accurate weather measurements.

A program called 'The Upper Air Observing Program' started by the NOAA during the '30s involved these weather balloons.

Hydrogen or helium is filled in these balloons to help the balloons become lighter to fly.

Hydrogen is the most common element used in weather balloons as it is lighter than air and less expensive than helium.

Working Of Weather Balloons

A weather balloon is a versatile object that does quite a lot of weather work when it is in the sky. Read on to find out how exactly a balloon manages to calculate wind speed and register other weather observations.

A weather balloon is made of latex or neoprene, which are synthetic rubbers that allow it to stay up in the air for about two hours.

The NWS reported that the sides of this balloon are around 0.0019 in (0.05 mm) thick before being released.

The balloon thickens to 9.84 in (0.0025 mm) when it reaches typical bursting altitudes.

The balloon sends back data using a tool called a radiosonde.

A transmitter is fitted on a radiosonde to send data back to the ground at regular intervals.

The radiosonde tracks parameters such as wind speed and wind direction.

At times, radar is also used to get wind data.

Navigation systems such as a satellite-based GPS (Global Positioning System) and radio direction finding also help obtain weather parameters.

You can also spot a parachute in the center of the balloon, along with an instrument box that carries certain instruments.

This small instrument box is responsible for measuring parameters such as pressure, temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, and wind direction.

The information collected from these instruments is sent back to on-ground tracking equipment.

A weather balloon usually goes up to a height of 1000 ft (304.8 m) per minute.

Highest Weather Balloon Flight

Weather balloons are designed so that they can reach high altitudes. Many records were set by sending weather balloons to the highest altitudes. Here are some of them.

The height to which the balloon goes cannot be determined prior to launching it.

However, a range between 60,000-105,000 ft (18,288-32,004 m) is typically expected of a weather balloon.

The highest recorded weather balloon flight was in 2002.

The height the balloon rose to was 173,000 ft (52,730 m).

The reason for its high flight record was the unique plastic material used in its making.

A StratoStar weather balloon was known to have risen to almost 125,200 ft (38,160 m) in 2011.

The balloon is filled with hydrogen or helium to make it rise higher.

The weather balloon expands to become almost four times its original diameter during the flight.

This expansion continues as it ascends until the balloon cannot stretch any further.

And after reaching its maximum limit, the balloon bursts!

This burst sends the balloon back to the ground.

The highest altitude attained by a manned air balloon is 113740.2 ft (34,668 m).

However, it is said that a zero-pressure balloon can, in fact, rise to an altitude of 140,000 ft (42,000 m).

Predicting how far a weather balloon will go is difficult in winter due to powerful winds.

The NOAA launches weather balloons to measure pressure, temperature, and other parameters for their day-to-day operations.

Accuracy Of Weather Balloons

So how accurate are weather observations provided by a hydrogen-filled balloon? Are you curious? Read these points below to find out!

To date, several agencies still use weather balloon flights to create a model of the atmosphere to enable them to make weather predictions.

A 3D model of the atmosphere is also possible now via the atmospheric parameters collected from the balloon.

The instruments the balloon carries help get data from various altitude points, thereby enabling the construction of a 3D model.

Atmospheric information like humidity, temperature, and pressure is collected via these balloons to plot weather maps.

The radiosonde that is attached to the balloon helps measure relative humidity, pressure, and temperature as the balloon rises.

Many instruments are designed to endure extreme atmospheric temperatures.

Temperatures as cold as -139 F (-95 C) can be tolerated by these instruments.

This balloon sustains air pressures of up to a few thousandths of the Earth's surface pressure.

These balloons are also important because they are used to intimate officials about impending storms hours before they strike.

Critical data provided by these balloons, like wind direction, wind speed, relative humidity, air temperature, air pressure, and cloud type, can be helpful to determine any calamity.

Meteorological research projects centered on aviation and storm and marine forecasts use information from weather balloons.


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