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

RODEO STORMS: Bad news ahead

STORM FRONT: A lightning filled storm heads past Bundaberg in the early hours of the morning. Photo: contributed Paul Donaldson

IT'S the news no one wanted to hear.

How to keep the Halloween zombies away

Queensland Police's offbeat advice to Trick or Treaters

Littleproud demands answers from bank

David Littleproud speaks at meeting.

FEDERAL Member for Maranoa David Littleproud has slammed Suncorp.

Local Partners

Australia Day Award nominations now open

ALL those who know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the Warwick community is encouraged to nominate them for an Australia Day Award.

PICS: Campdraft action gets underway at rodeo

Some of the action from the campdraft first round at the Warwick Rodeo and Campdraft this morning.

Check out the pics galore from the morning's action at the campdraft

Community garden set for Palmwoods

Kay Nixon at the Palmwoods Community Gardens will be hosting a launch day and inviting the ecommunity to come along and sign up.

Parcel of land to supply sustainable gardening for community

Former Split Enz front man Tim Finn finds new niche

Singer Tim Finn has written the music for theatre production Ladies in Black.

Musician finds his way to theatre

Kristie doesn't mind being the third wheel in Survivor final

Kristie Bennett in a scene from Australian Survivor.

SOLO player will take on Survivor's power couple Lee and El tonight.

Scary hoping Posh and Sporty will re-join The Spice Girls

Mel B

Mel B hoping Victoria Beckham, Mel C will re-join The Spice Girls

REVIEW: Michael McIntyre has Brisbane in stitches

Michael McIntyre in a scene from his TV series Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow.

BRITISH comedian is in the country on his Happy and Glorious Tour.

Cliff Richard doesn't need Rod Stewart's help with legal bills

Sir Cliff Richard

"'Don't worry, I'm loaded. I won't keep you to it.' "

Bindi Irwin named in MAXIM HOT 100 list

Wildlife Warrior named among Australia's most beautiful women

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

How to fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fitting 2m extra people in south-east Qld in 25 years a balance

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals