Winning Meteorological Roulette

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 If you live or work in Mountlake Terrace please click here.

What is it like to win the jackpot in a meteorological roulette game?   It is having a radiosonde float into your yard after flying miles high in the atmosphere and being lauched many miles away.  David Stroble of Mt. Vernon found a parachute, a shredded balloon, and a radiosonde (they call it a microsonde) in his backyard on October 15th. You can see the proof in pictures below:

 Radiosondes are meteorological packages that report temperature, humidity, pressure and wind as they are lifted high in the atmosphere by a weather balloon.  According to the National Weather Service radiosondes can ascend to over 35 km (about 115,000 ft--23 miles) and can drift hundreds of km.  Temperatures can drop to as cold as -130F and flights can last two hours or more.  The balloon is about 6 ft in diameter when it starts, but expands to 20-25 ft before it bursts.

This radiosonde started at Quillayute on the WA coast around 3 AM on October 14th (it was the 12 GMT radiosonde).  As shown on this map, the route covered about 180 miles:

And here is a plot of the observations from the unit....check out the winds...they are consistent with the route--very strong from the westsouthwest aloft.

Each radiosonde unit comes with a prepaid mailer to send it back for refurbishment and release.  My colleagues in the NWS tell me only a small proportion of the 75000 units launched each year get returned (around 15%)...but the U.S. government saves money on every unit that gets mailed back.

So keep a good luck out for used radiosondes...I am told that finding one is more lucky than finding a four-leaf clover.

Holiday Gift News for Weather Lovers

Need a perfect holiday gift for the weather inclined?   Sure, you could get my Northwest weather book, but I have an even better idea--a Washington weather calendar!  This is a fund-raiser for the Seattle Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society and all the profits support this good cause (KCPQ is a sponsor that is not getting any of the proceeds).  Cost:  $13.99.

Lots of nice pictures and packed with weather info.  To order try your local bookstore or calendar shops (including the UW Bookstore) or secure it online at
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