Project Global: Water


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Radiosondes


While incremental inventions made it possible to measure temperature, air pressure, wind speed and direction, technological developments have made it possible to optimize and miniaturize these instruments. Large and expensive equipment, such as mercury-filled glass or mechanically rotating blades have been rendered obsolete by cheap, compact and disposable components. Contained in smooth plastic boxes, today's instruments effectively become miniature weather stations—radiosondes—to be let up in the sky, transforming ordinary balloons into weather balloons.

Radiosondes transmit information packages periodically to ground receiving systems, manufactured by companies such as Meisei or Vaisala. Software can be acquired from various sources. The Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed software packages 'to assist with weather balloon launch planning, data collection/processing, and instrument setup.' While the software is easily on the organization's website, they discourage the general public to attempt to track radiosondes or read out their measuring history.

Whether motivated by a plateauing innovation on miniature electronics or an increased ecological awareness, radiosonde producing companies such as Vaisala focus on 'the removal of the hard plastic covers, further reduc[ing] the environmental impact of the RS41.' This information can be found alongside a page titled 'Have you found a weather balloon,' explaining what the crash landed radiosonde is to lay people. 'If there are no instructions for returning the device and you do not want to keep it, please dispose of it by following your country’s guidelines for disposal of electrical waste.'

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Elevational drawings of an integrated radiosonde

Sources: Meisei. Meisei iMS-100 radiosonde

  1. NOAA Earth System Research Laboratories, NOAA GML/OZWV Software Downloads
  2. Vaisala, Have you found a weather balloon?
Measurement, Optimization