Did you know that Fiji Meteorological Service releases a weather balloon twice a day?

Fiji Meteorological Service releasing a weather balloon
Fiji Meteorological Service releasing a weather balloon

Twice a day, every day of the year, the Fiji Meteorological Service releases a weather balloon at 11 am and 11 pm.  The balloon flights last for around 1 ½ to 2 hours and can rise up to 100,000 ft. (about 32 kilometers) in the atmosphere!

Weather balloons, which are made of latex or synthetic rubber (neoprene), are filled with either hydrogen or helium. The sides are about 0.051 mm thick before release and will be only 0.0025 mm thick at typical bursting altitudes.  The balloons, which start out measuring about 6 ft. wide before release, expand as they rise to about 20 ft. in diameter.

An instrument called a radiosonde is attached to the balloon to measure pressure, temperature, and relative humidity as it ascends up into the atmosphere.  These instruments will often endure temperatures as cold as -95°C, relative humidity from 0% to 100%, air pressures only a few thousandths of what is found on the Earth’s surface, ice, rain, thunderstorms, and wind speeds of almost 322 kilometers per hour.

A transmitter on the radiosonde sends the data back to tracking equipment on the ground every one to two seconds. By tracking the position of the radiosonde, we can also calculate wind speed and wind direction. The radiosonde is powered by a small battery.

Weather balloons are the primary source of data above the ground. They provide valuable input for computer forecast models, local data for meteorologists to make forecasts, and data for research.  Computer forecast models which use weather balloon data are used by all forecasters worldwide.  Without this information, accurate forecasts beyond a few hours would be almost impossible.  Facebook Page

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