A weather balloon is a scientific instrument which is used to collect data about atmospheric weather conditions. Some people also call weather balloons “sounding balloons,” because they take soundings of the atmosphere. This data is used in weather prediction, and to track general weather trends. Numerous agencies all over the world release weather balloons on a daily basis, and they generally share the information collected, in the interest of scientific cooperation.
A basic weather balloon will collect information about the ambient temperature, atmospheric pressure, and humidity. Typically, this information will be gathered during the ascent of the weather balloon and while it is hovering at altitude. The data is sent back to Earth with transponders. A weather balloon may also be used to collect information about wind speed and patterns, by transmitting its geographic location back to Earth.
The package of instruments in a weather balloon is called a radiosonde. The earliest radiosondes appeared in the 1930s in Russia, and other nations quickly adopted the technology as well. Generally, a radiosonde is designed for multiple uses, and it will be retrieved after it returns to Earth. Now and then the instrument packages are lost, but the data they collected in flight has already been sent back to Earth. Radiosondes may also be dropped from aircraft, in some cases, rather than being floated up on a weather balloon.\
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