UND’s Department Of Atmospheric Sciences To Launch Rawinsonde Weather Balloon July 31

The University of North Dakota Department of Atmospheric Sciences is planning the first launch of a weather balloon with a new rawinsonde system Wednesday, July 31.

The first launch will take place around 10:30 a.m. This will be a test to practice procedures and to ensure the rawinsonde system is working properly. A second launch is scheduled for 4 p.m. to coincide with a research flight being done with UND’s Citation research aircraft.

Weather balloons are launched to get a “snapshot” of the state of the atmosphere in the vertical direction. Weather that occurs at the surface is heavily reliant on meteorological features throughout the depth of the troposphere, or the lowermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere.  That is why understanding the state of the atmosphere in 3 dimensions is crucial to being able to predict the weather.

A rawinsonde system at its most basic consists of three things: The balloon which carries the radiosonde component, the radiosonde itself (this is the instrument that takes atmospheric measurements as it ascends, such as temperature, relative humidity, and pressure) which sends the data via radio signal back to the third component, which is the receiver.

The radio receiver is installed on the roof of Clifford Hall, which will allow the sensor to receive signal from the balloon from any direction and height when within range. There is also a software package on computers that is used it to ensure that the radiosonde itself is communicating and sending the data at regular intervals. It is used to track and plot the data as it is coming in.

At UND, the balloons will help forward atmospheric science research and weather forecasting.

UND will be able to use weather balloons in future research projects that the Department of Atmospheric Sciences runs (for example, the Polarimetric Cloud Analysis and Seeding Test, or POLCAST) to give these projects another method of analyzing the weather during these projects, and how the state of the atmosphere may be affecting what is being studied.

Another way in which the department hopes to utilize the system is educational.

The Department of Atmospheric Sciences offers different meteorological instrumentation classes, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Currently, the department is able to see a few of the instruments in action (the Dual-Polarization radar on the roof of Clifford Hall and the Citation aircraft).

Now that the department has a rawinsonde system, they can demonstrate how the system works and how to analyze the data received from the instrument in such classes.

The balloon launches are open to the public. Viewers can come to the Clifford Hall parking lot (or anywhere near for general public who may not have UND parking permits) and watch from the vicinity of the parking lot. The launches will take place on the grassy area near the railroad tracks that run along the parking lot.


Mike Poellot
Professor and Chair
Atmospheric Sciences
University of North Dakota
701.777.3180 | poellot@aero.und.edu