LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - One local man found something pretty cool while deer hunting a few weeks ago.
A few weeks ago while hunting in Laurel, Melvin Clark found a white box laying on the ground. That box turned out to be the instrument package, or radiosonde, from a weather balloon.
The upper air program is maybe not well known by many people, but it is probably one of the most important things done at the National Weather Service. It is the only times that we're able to take direct measurements of what is going on in the upper atmosphere.
All of that information gathered is then fed into computer models to help create an accurate forecast.
And the balloons take quite a journey. It usually takes about two hours for the balloon travel 20 miles up before popping. There, temperatures are between minus 60 and minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air pressure is only 1 percent that of the surface pressure. Balloons can also travel at speeds of 250 miles per hour if they get caught in the jet stream.
The balloon that carries the device is normally about 5 feet in diameter when launched but expand to 25 feet, the size of an average garage, before popping.
Finding a Weather Balloon radiosonde is actually pretty rare. The National Weather Service launches around 75,000 balloons a year, of which only 20 percent are ever found or returned.
If you do find one, you can mail it back to the National Weather Service free of charge with the instructions attached to the device.
And you can find out more about weather ballons by visiting the National Weather Service at weather.gov.