Launching a Weather Balloon
The idea is to launch Crosby's ring into the atmosphere from a weather
balloon. Although Crosby now resides in Los Angeles, he is willing to launch
it from any position (locally, nationally, or internationally). My brother
and I were thinking of making the entire event a "re-bachelor" party for
Crosby. His last one was a lot of fun.
What I would like to know is WHERE is the best place to launch the balloon
(with ring attached)? Crosby's goals are to maximize the distance the
balloon travels. In your previous posting, you mentioned that a balloon can
travel anywhere between 0 and 250 miles. Is there a way to extend this
distance (by catching a jet stream or something like that)? Do you know of
any way that the balloon fails (i.e. leakage, popping, etc.)? We would like
to reinforce any deficiencies to the balloon itself. Finally, I am currently
at a loss for where to acquire said weather balloon. Do you have a good
source to recommend?
This is certainly one of the more unusual requests that I have received!
Weather balloons are available from a company called Vaisala. You can find
them on the Internet at www.vaisala.com; their address and phone number is
on the site (at three locations; Woburn MA, Plain City OH, and Boulder CO).
The balloons are usually sold in quantity, but you could ask them if a
smaller quantity could be purchased.
You would need some helium, for filling the balloon. You do not want to
overfill it (Vaisala can provide directions), as it would pop at too low
an altitude. Leaks are not common until it gets to a high altitude, where it
is stretched very thin; not much can be done to reinforce the balloon. You
need to be gentle with the balloon, as introducing skin oil to it or rubbing
off too much of the powdery outside coating can cause it to burst prematurely.
As far as the length of flight of the balloon, that is not easily controlled.
You could look at a current weather map on the Internet (www.weather.com or
www.intellicast.com) to see what the wind direction and speed is where you
would be launching the balloon. It is possible that the balloon could get
up into a jet stream, if it is nearby; see one of the web sites for a jet
map. You might want to plan your launch for when the conditions are optimum.
Oh, and see if you can launch the balloon when the winds would bring it
over Chicago (where I live); I will take the ring to a pawn shop and cash
David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory
Click here to return to the Weather Archives
Update: June 2012