Weather Balloons


A very critical component of the National Weather Service forecasting and warning system is the upper air balloon, actually it’s called a radioson and here is the instrument and this instrument again is called a radioson is released twice a day from about ninety national weather services offices across the United States. The data from the instrument is sent back in real time. The instrument itself does not store the data. It’s sent back in real time to a computer system here at the National Weather Service office and we plot the data on what’s called a skew T log P diagram. It’s a vertical profile of the atmosphere on this diagram and it’s the temperature and humidity, pressure and wind that were plotting. And very critical to weather forecasting is to know is there a weak storm system passing through at say eighteen or twenty thousand feet. Because if there is and were not aware of it, then a forecast for this afternoon might be sunny when in reality it turns out to be mostly cloudy with rain showers. Because possibly we didn’t know that system that weak system was moving through at eighteen or twenty thousand feet. This data from the balloon shows us those systems at those levels and helps us to forecast. In addition to that this is very critical in severe weather when were anticipating severe thunderstorms or tornados, flash flooding. Three, four, five days in advance of a hurricane making land fall working with FEMA to let them know where we expect the hurricane to make land fall so they can preposition resources and be ready so when the disaster strikes their not then starting to get ready for it their already in place ready to go and they can immediately move into that area and help the people in need. This data forty years ago with the computer processing we had, took us much longer to receive the data back from the balloon release and to analyze it. We use to have to plot this data by hand and then analyze to determine the threats of thunderstorms, tornados and flash flooding. Where as today it’s a manner of minutes when we receive this data back and can have that information at our finger tips much more quickly. And its important in forecasting the weather again not whats happening right now where you are but what’s happening upstream from you what’s coming in, in the next few days. And so across the world if we could increase this network and release more of those balloons that would help in weather forecasting. Without this data I would say we would be back in the early nineteen hundreds forecasting basically day to day without this information.So it is really a critical component of weather forecasting today.

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