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What to do if you find a Weather Balloon/ Radiosonde

Radiosondes are sophisticated instruments attached to weather balloons used by the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service (TTMS), to obtain temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction from the surface to altitudes of approximately 35 kilometers.

Weather Observer releasing weather balloon at the Trinidad Upper Air Station

The specially-designed balloon is filled with hydrogen to enable the radiosonde to obtain accurate profiles into the upper atmosphere. The final bursting altitude of the balloon is determined by the size of the balloon, as during the ascent, the balloon expands as it rises due to lower pressure.

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TOTEX GP26 Weather Balloon

Once the balloon bursts, the radiosonde package falls back to the earth, in this case where you found the package. Depending on the winds in the atmosphere the radiosonde can travel over 300 kilometers from the site where the user launched the balloon.  

GRAW DFM-09 Radiosonde

The radiosonde transmits data throughout the flight to a receiving system located near the launch site. This system, typically called a sounding system, processes and converts the data into meteorological messages circulated worldwide on the global weather network.

If you have found a radiosonde and/or a weather balloon, it is safe to handle. Photos of radiosondes and the weather balloons commonly used by the TTMS are shown above. 

Weather Balloon remains found in Cunupia
Follow these instructions if you find a TTMS Radiosonde/Weather Balloon:
(1) Cut and discard the string to the burst balloon.  IMPORTANT: On rare occasions the balloon may be found partially inflated with gas. The gas inside the balloon is flammable hydrogen.  If the balloon is inflated, keep away from it and contact your local fire department for safe disposal.  
    (2) If the radiosonde is damaged (e.g. exterior casing is crushed), or was found floating in water, it should be disposed of following regulations in your area for handling discarded electronics with depleted lithium batteries. 
(3) The radiosonde can be sent back to the TTMS ( where it may be reused or disposed of appropriately.
(4) You are free to keep the radiosonde; please note our radiosondes have small lithium battery cells inside. If you do not want to keep the radiosonde, please dispose of the package in accordance with your local guidelines/regulations for electrical waste disposal. Any remaining pieces of the balloon can be disposed with   household waste.

   -Ian Persad, Meteorological Equipment Repair Supervisor (Ag).



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