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Floating Weather Balloons Help Predict Forecast

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– The week of April 23 is Severe Weather Awareness Week and as part of it, CBS4’s Justin McHeffey got a lesson in the role weather balloons play in forecasting.

The National Weather Service launches the balloons twice a day from locations around the country including Boulder.

That’s where Justin caught up with Bryon Lewis with NWS. For Lewis, explaining the reasons for using the balloons is easy.

“There’s only one way you’re going to get a true sampling of the atmosphere and that’s with these balloon launches.”

The balloons fly 120,000 feet into the atmosphere and the information they gather using a radiosonde is key to forecasting the weather for the following day.

That data includes the relativity humidity, the temperature and the air pressure.

“There’s a lot of talk about how we get the forecast wrong,” Lewis said. “It’s instruments like this that help us make our forecast better because we’re getting a sampling of the raw atmosphere with the launching of these balloons.”

Now computers record the information and help analyze it but Lewis has been around long enough to have had a few frightening afternoons of his own.

“There were many days when I had a second release during severe weather,” he recalled. “That instrument was flying and I was down on the floor with my ruler trying to analyze data.”

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