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LINCOLN, Ill. (WCIA) – With the Chinese Spy Balloon passing over the United States in recent days and China’s claims that it was a weather balloon, we decided to learn more about the local weather balloon program from the National Weather Service Office in Lincoln.
Twice a day, the facility launches weather balloons coordinated at the same time with 91 other National Weather Service offices in the United States and its territories.
They occur every day of the year and are a part of a network that launches over 900 balloons around the world simultaneously.
The weather balloons launched by the National Weather Service across the country generally last for around two hours and can drift as far as 125 miles away, sometimes farther than that.
The balloons are made of a latex or synthetic rubber and are filled with either hydrogen or helium.
Once filled, the balloon will measure around 6 feet, but grows to over 20 feet before it bursts in the atmosphere.
Attached to the bottom of the balloon is a piece of equipment called a radiosonde.
The radiosonde is a device that is about the side of a large cell phone and is used to measure pressure, temperature and relative humidity in the atmosphere.
The device also contains a transmitter which is used to track the device, helping to provide data on wind speed and wind direction.
Once the balloon bursts, usually at a height of over 100,000 feet, the device will slowly fall to the ground with the help of an attached orange parachute.
The data provided by the weather balloon is monitored instantaneously and is then sent out to be used by atmospheric scientists around the country and the world, being incorporated into forecast guidance data and more.
While the balloons are launched twice a day every day of the year, when conditions warrant, special balloons can also be sent up to gather even more data.