Retrieving Weather Balloons
We have found a weather balloon and would like to know if
it is possible to determine its launch site or the sites that are most
likely. What is the average and maximum distance they will travel?
It is unusual to find a balloon and/or package. If the measurement
with the balloon, it may say on it where the balloon was launched from.
However, there are a large number of weather packages launched on balloons in
the United States without this kind of information on them during scientific
field experiments and even routinely by large monitoring programs, such as
the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurements program in
Oklahoma and Kansas. The average distance of travel of a balloon is
40 miles, but depending on the wind speed and direction at different heights
of the atmosphere where the balloon travels, the balloon may go zero to 250
miles. During one field experiment that I was involved in, the balloon went
one direction for a while and then when higher up, reversed direction
and passed back over us going the opposite way (this is unusual, but does
I would be interested to know if there is anything written on the balloon
especially a manufacturer's name (like Vaisala, VIZ, AIR) and any numbers;
usually have serial or "run" numbers on them. That information, combined with
where you found the package would allow us to identify to whom the package
was sold and therefore possibly where it came from.
If you want, please forward this information to me at email@example.com and
try to track it down.
Argonne National Laboratory
Click here to return to the Weather Archives
Update: June 2012