by Robin Kemp
UPDATES 12:15 p.m. Nov. 10 with airport comment, map
The National Weather Service in Peachtree City, GA says one of its weather instruments landed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
— NWS Atlanta (@NWSAtlanta) November 10, 2020
Airport communications manager Alnissa Ruiz-Craig confirmed, “Yes, a weather service balloon did land on Ramp 5 at the airport yesterday [Monday, November 9]. The National Weather Service was contacted and the balloon will be sent back to them per the instructions provided.”
The instrument, a radiosonde, is attached to a weather balloon that can stretch to 25 feet wide and rides on the wind. The device measures pressure, temperature, and relative humidity, according to NWS’s website, and may also be tracked to figure out the direction and speed of the wind.
The devices can fly above 115,000 feet, sometimes for more than two hours, traveling over 125 miles at times, NWS explained, at temperatures as low as -130°F “and air pressures of only a few hundredths of what is found on the Earth’s surface.”
Eventually, the balloon pops and a little parachute shepherds the radiosonde back to the ground.
What should you do if you find a radiosonde? The NWS has advice:
- Cut the string to the balloon and put the string and balloon remnants in the trash.
- Look for a plastic mail bag (postage prepaid in U.S.) attached to the radiosonde’s handle.
- Remove the plastic mail bag and place the radiosonde inside it.
- Hand the package directly to a U.S. postal carrier.
Watch how a weather balloon is launched in this National Weather Service video: