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The aliens have landed?

N-Weather-balloon1-webA man in Solon Township woke up to a strange sight on Tuesday, May 6—something that looked like a deflated parachute hung from a tree, with a device attached to it by a cord.

N-Weather-balloon2-webThe man, who lives on 15 Mile Road between Algoma and Friendly Ln, investigated it and discovered that it was a LMS6 Radiosonde weather instrument, with a label revealing where it came from. It had originated in Green Bay, Wisconsin the previous day, May 5. And it had flown all the way across Lake Michigan!

According to the National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), twice a day, seven days a week, nearly 900 stations around the world (including at the NWS Weather Forecast Office in Green Bay) release weather balloons into the atmosphere to obtain upper air weather information. Under the helium or hydrogen-filled balloon is a parachute, and a small instrument, called a radiosonde, dangles on a string broadcasting continuous weather data back to the launch site.

Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Photo courtesy of NOAA.

NOAA says, “The radiosonde consists of a radio transmitter, GPS, temperature sensor (called a thermistor), humidity sensor (called a hygristor), and pressure sensor. The winds aloft are computed from the measured elevations and location of the radiosonde at a given pressure (recall pressure decreases with elevation). The height of the balloon is also calculated. So, from this simple instrument, the complete temperature, moisture, wind and pressure field in the vicinity of the launch station can be obtained during its two-hour journey to nearly 100,000 feet up into the atmosphere.”

The data it collects is the basic ingredient that goes into computer models about how the atmosphere flows, and weather charts and information is developed on which forecasts are based.

Below the balloon is a parachute, which allows the instrument to float safely back to earth once the balloon bursts. Attached are instructions on where to send it if it is found. That’s what happened with the one in Solon Township. Some (perhaps 20% nationwide) are found and returned to the NWS for refurbishing so that the instrument can be re-used. Many, though, fall harmlessly into a forest or a large body of water.

 

 

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