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




Ban makes smokers jokers

See what our readers think about smoking bans

Major events face chop

BRAKES ON: The Yangan Truck Pull would have to be cancelled unless the association receives more helpers.

Group after more help at Yangan

Stop and smell the pot

In this Jan. 7, 2016 photo, marijuana grows at a facility in Markham, Ontario. Neil Closner, chief executive officer of MedReleaf,  had applied to the Kashruth Council of Canada to have MedReleaf's cannabis oils certified kosher. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

Man grew marijuana plants on the side of a Pratten Rd.

Latest deals and offers

Tom Hiddleston's Instagram account hacked

Actor Tom Hiddleston

Thor star the latest celebrity targetted by hackers

Charlize Theron's son dresses up as Frozen character

Actor Charlize Theron

Star's son spotted dressed a beloved Frozen character

BOOKS: Food for thought in Caroline Beecham's latest novel

Maggie's Kitchen by Caroline Beecham is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99.

New novel reminds readers that bravery exists in many forms

TELEVISION: New show is a Survivor, for now

Jonathan LaPaglia hosts the TV series Australian Survivor.

WHAT happens when a new show with a big budget flops?

Rachel Weisz understands celebrity gossip fascination

Actor Rachel Weisz

Weisz says mystery is good for an actor

Gina Rodriguez relished dramatic change for new film

Jane the Virgin lead Gina Rodriguez

TV star shaved her hair for movie role

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

$100m plan for Curtis Island 'world class' luxury resort

$100 million resort: Top views at Turtle Street at Curtis Island.

"At the moment we think it meets all the town planning approvals.”

Noosa mayor on "red alert" over planning court decision

Mayor Tony Wellington hands down his first budget.

Mayor upset at lack of say about look and feel of Noosa