Balloon measurements

A yellow ozonesonde balloon floats upwards against a grey sky watched by scientists at Davis.
A balloon carrying an Ozonesonde is released from Davis (Photo: M. Crowe)

Balloons have been use for some time to carry instrument packages (payloads) into the atmosphere. Hydrogen-filled meteorological balloons are the most common and they are typically released from each of the Australian Antarctic stations twice a day.

Meteorologists measure the wind speed by tracking the horizontal movement of the balloon as it moves upward. The payload also measures the

  • temperature
  • pressure
  • humidity

and transmits its measurements back to the ground. These balloons typically reach a height of 33 km in summer and 25 km in winter. As a result, they are used in research of the middle atmosphere as well as for weather forecasting.

Ozone can also be measured using balloon-based methods. A specialised payload can be prepared and released using a meteorological balloon. These measurements are particularly relevant to studies of the Antarctic ozone hole.

Although balloon measurements give a 'snapshot' of the atmosphere with very fine detail, they are expensive. They must therefore be used sparingly and do not have very good time coverage.