Last week I got to help launch the NOAA weather balloon. I learned a lot about the process and purpose of the weekly launches.
The reason for the launch is to learn more about ozone depletion at 14-22 kilometers. The ozone being destroyed in that range is because of three things that are working together:
- Chlorine (provided by human use of CFCs)
- Polar Stratospheric Clouds (PSCs) which form at temps below -78C
- UV light, from the sun
When all these conditions are in affect, a lot of damage can be seen in our ozone (August to October). Once the sun warms our atmosphere enough, the Polar Stratospheric Clouds go away and the destruction stops for that year. Even though CFCs are not used nearly as often, they have already left long term effects on our atmosphere. It will still take many years without CFCs before positive changes are noticed.
These balloon flights also measure temperature and pressure. The meteorologists put their own weather testing equipment along for the ride. Each balloon launch costs about $2,000 which includes the helium, science equipment, and balloon itself. Unfortunately, these balloons are usually not returned because they can end up long distances from the station. One balloon set up was retrieved at the beginning of winter that landed a few miles away, but that is rare.
Thank you for the photos, Lindsey!