Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weather Balloon Launch

For those who have never seen the launch of a tactical weather balloon ...


tactical weather balloon launch

I took this image the other day when we were out on one of the West Fort Hood ranges for a field training exercise. Actually it's not just one picture, but a series of 5. I set my camera's drive to "continuous shooting", and popped off these 5 shots in just over a second, as the Marwin weather balloon raced towards the sky.

Once I got home and started processing the images in photoshop, I just made each picture in the series it's own layer (with the last shot as the background). After that, it was just a case of adjusting the layer's opacity, and making liberal use of the eraser brush, until I got the "time lapse" type of effect that I was looking for.

Launching balloons was just one of a list of tasks that our Air Force weather forecasters were recertifying their skill level on, during this one day field exercise. If you look in the picture, you can see a little white box dangling below the balloon. This is called a radiosonde. As the balloon rises through the atmosphere, the instruments in the sonde constantly capture and send back data about winds, temperature, humidity and pressure. We then plot this data on a skew-t diagram, which gives us a visual and numerical representation of the atmosphere ... which we then use (along with other tools, such as computer models) to help build our forecasts.

Relating this back to the "real" world ...

If you ever hear your local tv weather man talk about things like "atmospheric stability", or how we probably won't get thunderstorms today because the "mid level cap" is too strong, this is information that was obtained through the launch of a weather balloon.

There you go, now you know. ;-)

Todd

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