NWS evaluates how the downed China balloon differs from the weather balloon

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (Nebraska) – The United States was captivated last week by a balloon floating 60,000 feet above the country, but the question remains: What was that balloon?

The Chinese said it was their balloon, but they claim it was a weather balloon. The US claims the balloon was sent from China to spy.

The balloon was first spotted floating over Alaska, before crossing Canada and returning to the United States. The balloon was shot down by the United States off the coast of South Carolina, where attempts are underway to recover its payload.

While there are weather balloons, we wanted to look at what the National Weather Service uses as weather balloons and if they compare to the Chinese balloon.

Chad Fish(Chad Fish | Chad Fish)

According to Chris Buttler, Senior Forecaster at the National Weather Service Office in North Platte, their balloons are very small.

“When this thing inflates, it’s maybe 30 feet in diameter,” Buttler said.

The Chinese balloon measured well over 100 feet, according to experts.

National Weather Service payloads on weather balloons have also declined in recent years. As of 2020, the new radiosonde (the instrument package attached to the flask) has been reduced to a few grams.

A National Weather Service radiosonde is about the size of a clenched fist (Ian Mason/Nebraska)

Something that has stuck with many meteorologists is the trail of this balloon.

Weather balloons are designed to provide a snapshot of the atmosphere at a particular time in certain places. The process involves releasing a balloon into the atmosphere, allowing the hydrogen-filled balloon to rise naturally through the upper atmosphere. Any redirection of the balloon is done by natural wind forces, which is how the balloon can calculate wind strength at different altitudes.

According to several US government sources, the Chinese balloon could be remote controlled and moved on command.

Dr. Ken Dewey, professor emeritus of climatology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, is skeptical that research could be done with a controlled balloon.

“There’s no real benefit to moving a ball over a large area,” Dewey said. “We already have satellites that measure wind speed and direction, such a balloon won’t give us anything new.”

Weather balloons are launched around the world from many countries, however they are all released at the same time.

“There are about 60 to 70 upper air stations in the United States,” Buttler said. “They’re all launching simultaneously in the United States and, for that matter, globally.”

On the trail of the ball/KY3 First Alert Weather Team(ky3)

Most meteorologists agree that a guided balloon, moving through various climatic regions, with a large non-disposable payload, hovering lower in the atmosphere than a regular weather balloon, makes no sense. regarding modern research.

Both Dewey and Buttler added that they were unaware of a Chinese experiment like this in the field, but they didn’t rule out the possibility.

All United States climatological and meteorological data collected by the United States government, including satellites, radars and radiosondes, is always freely available to the public. These resources are limited by regions and alerts during times of conflict.

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