Bulletin Board Idea Weather Balloons and Radiosondes

Each year, over 75,000 weather balloons carry a special instrument package into the upper atmosphere. This package is called a radiosonde (silent “e”). Your upper-level primary students are probably familiar with hot air balloons – – but do they know about weather balloons and radiosondes?

The radiosonde measures wind speeds, atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity. It also includes a battery-powered radio for transmitting recorded data back to earth. The following bulletin board spotlights weather balloons and how they launch radiosondes.

Bulletin board title: We Study Weather Balloons

The teacher supplies a template and craft paper so each student can make his/her own “balloon.” The template insures that each balloon is the same size and that they will all fit on the classroom bulletin board. Weather balloons will be posted after students attach their own “radiosondes” and the trivia that goes inside them.

To make the radiosonde, give each student a 3 x 5 white index card (or similar size card stock) to fold in half. Tape or staple the sides shut, leaving the top open. They may then decorate and label their radiosonde and attach it to the weather balloon with a short piece of string or yarn. In real life, radiosondes are sent into the atmosphere dangling beneath a balloon.

The teacher will also make a radiosonde replica, but it will be shoe-box size. It will also be the central focus on the completed bulletin board. Inside the box are trivia cards small enough to fit inside the pocket of students’ radiosondes. These cards will feature interesting bits of information about weather balloons/and or radiosondes.

When weather balloons are finished, each student draws a trivia card from the teacher’s radiosonde box and reads it aloud to the class. No two students will have the same information. This gives each student a chance to share something unique. Students learn a lot about weather balloons and radiosondes by listening to their fellow class members.

After students have shared their information, they may insert the trivia card into their radiosonde’s pocket. The teacher’s radiosonde will be placed in the middle of students’ balloons on the board. A take-home hand-out with all trivia should be made available to your class. This allows them to share what they’ve learned with others. It can also serve as a study sheet if you plan to give a quiz.

The following information comes from various sources on the internet and helps teachers prepare trivia cards:

– Studying the atmosphere became easier after hot-air balloons were invented.

– Weather balloons carry special instruments thousands of feet into the atmosphere to take measurements.

– Two types of instruments have been used to measure upper-air level readings: meteorgraphs and radiosondes.

– The radiosonde is different from a meteorograph. It includes a radio that can transmit any data it collects back to the earth.

– As the radiosonde is carried aloft, special sensors measure profiles of pressure, temperature, and relative humidity.

– The radiosonde is suspended below a weather balloon before it is launched.

– Weather balloons are inflated with hydrogen or helium.

– When the weather balloon is first launched, it looks very small. As it rises, it expands.

– The higher a balloon goes, the colder the air gets.

– The radiosonde is sometimes exposed to temperatures as low as -130 degrees Fahrenheit.

– When the weather balloon expands beyond its elastic limit, it bursts.

– Some weather balloons expand to 32 feet wide before they burst.

– A small parachute slows the radiosonde’s descent and brings it safely back to earth.

– Scientists today still depend on weather balloons to transport weather instruments into the atmosphere.

– A weather-balloon flight can last over two hours and rise approximately 90,000 feet. Some go even higher.

– If a weather balloon does not rise high enough, the missions is considered a failure.

– The radiosonde can drift more than 125 miles from where it was launched..

– Of all the radiosondes released by the National Weather Service each year, only about 20 percent are found and returned to the NWS.

– The National Weather Service reconditions used radiosondes, which saves a lot of money.

-If you find a fallen National Weather Service radiosonde, it is safe to handle. Cut the string from the weather balloon, then remove and discard the battery inside the instrument.

– All radiosondes should be returned to the National Weather Service. Follow the directions on the package to return it.

– There are over close to 1,000 upper-air observation sites around the world. Most of them are located in the Northern Hemisphere.

– All upper-air observations are usually taken at the same time every day – 365 days a year.

– Most countries share the information they collect with the rest of the world through international agreements.

– Information collected by radiosondes is used to help forecast weather and give severe weather warnings.

– The National Weather Service launches radiosondes two times every day from 92 stations in North America and the Pacific Islands.

– In 1985, Soviet Russia dropped two radiosondes into the atmosphere of the planet Venus. The radiosondes were tracked for two days.

A bulletin board that features weather balloons and radiosondes will be a fun, educational activity for your upper-level primary students. Once you launch this bulletin board, your class may also enjoy making some of their own weather instruments.