The National Weather Service in Pittsburgh releases weather balloons twice a day to assist with forecasting the weather in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The weather balloons retrieve a vertical profile of the atmosphere by measuring temperature, wind, relative humidity, pressure, etc. Once the balloon reaches higher elevations, it pops and parachutes back down to the surface.

Typically, the winds in the United States blow from west to east so the balloon often pops further west over the northeastern United States. However, today was a unique case. Due to a storm system in the southeastern U.S. the winds aloft are from the south and east. This caused the weather balloon to slowly drift over Columbiana County where it burst and fell to the surface.

Tweet from the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh

The balloon fell right along the Columbiana/Lawrence County line. Once again, the balloon poses no threat because once it pops it parachutes safely down to the surface. Below is an example of a weather balloon.

The balloon is filled with helium such that it rises through the atmosphere. An instrument called a radiosonde is attached by string to the bottom of the balloon and this measure the atmospheric variables listed above.

The balloon expands rapidly as it rises and eventually it will burst in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Then, the balloon will make sure of the orange parachute and softly descend toward the surface of the Earth.

Example of a weather balloon courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Many weather balloons fall in remote locations and are never recovered. However, the National Weather Service typically puts contact information on the radiosonde in the event that someone finds it. The label includes shipping information for the NWS office that the balloon originated from and postage for it to be shipped back and re-used.

Who told you that the weather is boring today? Even on calm days, mother nature has a way of making the weather interesting!