5 Jan 2007

Interview: Justin Wood - Floating forecaster

At Casey, the weather balloons are released at 7:15 am and 7:15 pm, which corresponds with the same time that everyone else in the world releases theirs. The weather balloon contains a GPS unit that tells us where the balloon is, and a radio transmitter that sends the information back to the receiver on the roof of our observations building. As the balloons go up through the atmosphere, they transmit information — including temperature, pressure, wind speed and wind direction — to the ground station every two seconds until they explode! Computer forecast models that rely on weather balloon data are used by forecasters worldwide, from the Bureau of Meteorology to your local TV weather presenter! Without this information, accurate forecasts beyond a few hours would be almost impossible. Since we’ve been at Casey, we’ve had really good weather for releasing balloons — light winds and nothing too serious going on. In winter, blizzard conditions will occur fairly often, which means we’ll be releasing balloons into 120 km/h winds and falling snow!

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