Weather balloons key to accurate hurricane forecasting

WSLS

BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) – As several storm patterns are changing, the National Weather Service in Blacksburg is sending balloon-like computers into the sky. These balloons live-stream data and provide meteorologists with a better understanding of the storm coming our way.

Weather balloons have been used for years. With Hurricane Joaquin approaching the East Coast, the National Hurricane Center is asking for additional balloon launches.

“Even despite all of the technology that we have, the advancements in computer models and everything else, having the raw data is still the best way to ingest data in order for our computer models to give us the best possible solutions,” said National Weather Service Meteorologist Christopher Fisher.

Normally the balloons are launched twice a day, everyday. Now, meteorologists are launching these instruments every six hours collecting temperature, wind, humidity and pressure data.

“All of that information is then input into computer weather models that predict where low and high pressures are going to move and how much precipitation is going to fall,” said National Weather Service Coordination Meteorologist Phil Hysell. “So, the more data we have and the more frequent we can receive that data, the better the forecast will be.”

With a life span of about two hours before popping, meteorologists add the instruments are critical to help track the movement of Joaquin and other storm systems brewing. The balloons can better pinpoint how much rain will fall and where.

The National Weather Service will launch a balloon every six hours until the hurricane passes.

 

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