News

What are weather balloons?

A weather balloon with radiosonde attached.
A weather balloon with radiosonde attached. Contributed

IN AUSTRALIA there are weather stations that are playing with balloons. Not your party variety balloon but huge, 1.5m monsters.

It takes more then 8.5 cubic meters of helium gas to fill these balloons. Helium is a gas that is lighter than our atmosphere and allows the balloon to rise. Technical weather instruments, stored in a lightweight, cardboard box known as a radiosonde are attached to the bottom of the balloon and the balloon is released into the atmosphere.

It speeds away from the Earth, carrying the radiosonde, which is already hard at work sending information back to the weather station.

It takes almost an hour for the balloon to reach its goal height in the stratosphere at almost 30000m. The stratosphere is the second-to-last layer before reaching outer space.

If you were in a basket at the bottom of the balloon you would be witnessing an awesome sight. You would see the blackness of outer space above you and the green/blue sphere of the earth below but you wouldn't be there for long. While the balloon ascends it also expands.

The cause of this is atmospheric pressure. The higher the balloon goes the less pressure it encounters. Now, at about 29km above the ground the balloon reaches its maximum expansion, about the size of a large truck, and it is stretched to its limit.

The rubber splits and bursts sending the radiosonde plummeting back towards the ground. Within seconds, the wind catches a small, orange parachute and slows the device's descent until it reaches the ground, sometimes 100s of km from where it was released.

This process is repeated up to four times a day, and has done for the last 70 years since scientists first discovered the balloons and the advantages of atmospheric conditions in forecasting.

Topics:  weather, westys weather




Boy charged after alleged armed robbery attempt in Warwick

Police have charged a boy over the alleged incident on Thursday night.

Thirteen-year-old charged after armed robbery attempt in Warwick

Two motocross bikes allegedly stolen at major event

Queensland Police are assisting with inquiries

Two bikes allegedly stolen from motocross riding complex

Latest deals and offers

Elm Street is far from a nightmare

Elm street's new album is making waves. Photo Contributed

Elm Street talks about drumming studios, power metal and the album.

What's on the small screen this week

Keira Maguire and Richie Strahan in a scene from The Bachelor.

SEVEN gears up for the Rio Olympics while The Bachelor continues.

Drowning Pool gig review at Max Watt's

Drowning Pool played Brisbane with A Breach of Silence and She Cries Wolf at the Max Watt's House of Music.

Drowning Pool prove that 'bodies' hit the floor when they play

#SaveMarinaJoyce: How ISIS theory took over youtube channel

One young Youtuber accidentally gave rise to a conspiracy theory

Talking whiskey with Jack Daniel’s master distiller

It all comes down to the distillery

SIXTY MILES AHEAD sign with Eclipse Records, prepare new album 'Insanity'

Sixty Miles Ahead sign with Eclipse. Photo Contributed

Sixty Miles Ahead to release new album on Eclipse

Queensland's $1 town goes under the hammer today

The township of Yelarbon is up for sale.

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

72-year-old Coast developer set to start new project

GREEN LIGHT: The Cosmopolitan has been approved for development at Cotton Tree.

Meet the Canberran set to deliver another chapter for Coast suburb

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd

Ecco Ripley sales run sparks prime release

MOVING IN: Sekisui House has announced the release of more residential blocks at Ecco Ripley.

Sekisui House is preparing to unveil more land at Ecco Ripley

The climb is slow but property on the way up

Michael Matusik, director of Matusik Property Insights.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin

The improvement would be mild when compared to past cycles