NWS Quad Cities launch extra weather balloons to help with Hurricane Ian forecast

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 6:06 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The National Weather Service in Davenport is one of nearly 50 offices nationwide that are sending up double the amount of weather balloons each day to gather more accurate weather data to put into the computer models as Hurricane Ian inches closer to the United States.

At 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on a typical day, meteorologists at the National Weather Service launch a hydrogen weather balloon into the air.

Since this past weekend, NWS Quad Cities in Davenport has launched four balloons each day.

A small, wireless weather instrument called a radiosonde is attached to the balloon, gathering gathers temperature, relative humidity, wind and pressure data at different levels up to 100,000 feet into the atmosphere.

The weather data is then fed into the computer models that help meteorologists forecast the weather.

“The idea is more frequent data, getting into our computer models and improving the consistency of our model output because we’re really looking at helping the National Hurricane Center have quality model data to look at and hone-in on that forecast,” said Rich Kinney, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at NWS Quad Cities.

Kinney said the extra weather balloon launches will continue through at least early Wednesday afternoon.

“Having this additional data really helps the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center when they’re tracking the models through time. For example, based on today’s launch we’ll have a certain set of computer models. And then later this evening, another balloon launch and another run of the computer models. So they can track the different runs of these models to see if they’re maintaining consistency,” said Kinney.

Special balloon launches also happen during severe weather potential, locally, and sometimes winter storms.