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First Alert Storm Week - How balloons help meteorologists forecast severe weather

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 11:12 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 3:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Forecasting severe weather takes several steps from analyzing current data to looking at forecast models. One of the first steps is to gather all of that data, and that involves using a rather simple tool: a balloon.

National Weather Service
National Weather Service(Weather Balloon)

It’s not your ordinary balloon. Weather balloons are designed to fly all the way to the top of the atmosphere, and while doing so it’s collecting data like temperatures, dew points, pressure, and wind that helps meteorologists world wide forecast weather more accurately everyday.

The NWS launches these balloons twice a day, but during severe weather or hurricanes, the NWS launches what’s called a “special sounding.” This is just extra balloon launches to get the most up to date info on the atmosphere.

When forecasting tornadoes or severe thunderstorms, this is extremely helpful to meteorologists because they can see how much energy the atmosphere has gained from the morning launches, and sometimes they lead to changes to the forecast or they confirm how dangerous the weather will become.

As the balloon reaches it’s highest point near 100,000 feet, it’s the size of a house before it pops and parachutes back down to earth. So if you ever find a little white box with an NWS logo on it, you know where it came from.

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