By Greg Bartlett
Weather can be an important part of your day. You need to know what the weather is going to be like so that you can know how to dress, know whether or not to bring your umbrella, know whether you can keep your convertible’s top down, or know what to plan for this weekend. But sometimes the weather just doesn’t turn out the way the forecasters predict it. You may show up ready to hike only to find out it’s pouring down rain while the forecast said it would be sunny. There went your weekend’s plans.Researchers are constantly trying to find new and better ways of predicting the weather. Meteorology students at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio recently launched a high-altitude weather balloon. They intend to use it to run more experiments than are even used by the National Weather Service. The weather balloon includes GPS tracking devices so that the students can follow the progress of their balloon and recover it when it returns to Earth.
Many professional meteorologists use high-altitude weather balloons to help forecast weather. In fact, the National Weather Service launches two balloons a day from almost a hundred sites so that meteorologists can have information on such things as humidity, temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction. Some of these balloons contain GPS tracking devices so that the balloons can be tracked, recovered, and then reused. By using high-altitude balloons, the National Weather Service can collect upper atmospheric data relatively inexpensively, and can thus help to predict the weather so that you can know how to plan your day.
The students at Mount Vernon Nazarene University hope to also study clouds and cloud formations, jet stream speed, cosmic radiation, and insect life in the higher levels of the atmosphere. Because they have GPS tracking devices on their balloon, when the balloon returns they can reuse it, allowing more students to study the upper atmosphere and the events that affect weather. But recovering the balloon is not just important so that students can reuse it, but also so that they can retrieve the pictures and other information that the balloon collects.
Even though weather forecasting is not perfect, researchers from students to professional meteorologists are attempting to find better ways of predicting weather. Using GPS tracking devices on weather balloons is one way to help ensure that accurate information is gathered, recorded, and delivered to you so that you know what to expect in order to know how to plan.