This photo shows the launch of a weather balloon during a field project in Niger, Africa in 2006.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/Terry Hock
Weather balloons are used to carry weather instruments that measure temperature, pressure, humidity, and winds in the lowest few miles of the atmosphere. The balloons are made of rubber and weigh up to one kilogram (2.2 pounds).
The information collected from the instruments on weather balloons are used to learn about current weather conditions, to help meteorologists to make weather forecasts, to contribute to information in computer models, and to collect data for other scientific research projects. Weather balloons carry instrument packages that are called radiosondes or dropsondes, and scientists.
To gather information for weather forecasts, weather balloons are launched every day from approximately 800 locations around Earth. They are launched at the same time all over the world, at noon and midnight Greenwich Mean Time, which is 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in the United States. The balloons rise more than 24.14 kilometers (15 miles) while collecting data.
In addition, weather balloons are used to collect data for specific field research projects about things like air pollution or climate change. Scientists often launch weather balloons from land vehicles, ships, and airplanes to collect data for these projects. In some cases, scientists send signals to the instruments on the weather balloons when they want them to release an instrument package into a storm. Then the instrument package transmits the data it collects to a weather station on the ground. In other instances, scientists use a Global Positioning System (GPS) to track the weather instruments so they can know the wind speed and direction at different heights in the atmosphere in different parts of the world.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!Cool It!
is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store
You might also be interested in:
Wind is moving air. Warm air rises, and cool air comes in to take its place. This movement creates different pressures in the atmosphere which creates the winds around the globe. Since the Earth spins,...more
Predicting how our climate will change in the next century or beyond requires tools for assessing how planet responds to change. Global climate models, which are run on some of the world's fastest supercomputers,...more
Scientists sometimes travel in specially outfitted airplanes in order to gather data about atmospheric conditions. These research aircraft have special inlet ports that bring air from the outside into...more
Rainbows appear in the sky when there is bright sunlight and rain. Sunlight is known as visible or white light and is actually a mixture of colors. Rainbows result from the refraction and reflection of...more
The Earth travels around the sun one full time per year. During this year, the seasons change depending on the amount of sunlight reaching the surface and the Earth's tilt as it revolves around the sun....more
An anemometer is a weather instrument used to measure the wind (it can also be called a wind gauge). Anemometers can measure wind speed, wind direction, and other information like the largest gust of wind...more
Thermometers measure temperature. "Thermo" means heat and "meter" means to measure. You can use a thermometer to measure the temperature of many things, including the temperature of...more