Meteorologists In Aberdeen Helping Irma Forecast

All eyes have been on Hurricane Irma as she continues to move closer and closer to the United States. Having already brought destructive and deadly winds as well as storm surge to portions of the Caribbean, in places like the Island of Barbuda. With nearly 100% of the island of Barbuda suffering destructive damage and 60% of the islands population now homeless, meteorologists have been working around the clock to accurately forecast where she’ll move to next. With the help from meteorologists here in the Sioux Empire.

Ryan Vipond Launching A Weather Balloon on Wednesday, Sept. 6th, via NWS Aberdeen

The National Weather Service in Aberdeen is one of the 92 upper air National Weather Service sites located across the United States, Alaska and in the Pacific. That means that every day, twice a day, meteorologists prepare and launch a weather balloon. Starting off with a diameter around 5 feet and expanding to around 25 feet in diameter and equipped with a device called a radiosonde, this balloon will travel over 100,000 thousand feet up in the atmosphere collecting data as it travels. From temperature, to moisture, to pressure and wind direction, the radiosonde sends back all that information, from the different atmospheric levels, to the site in Aberdeen in real time. But with Hurricane Irma moving into the southern waters of Florida, the site now launches a balloon every 6 hours.

The balloon will continue to rise until it pops, at which the radiosonde will fall slowly back to the surface via a parachute. Vipond says that if you happen to find a fallen radiosonde to send it back to the address that’s written on the side, they can be used again which sites like to do since it costs a couple hundred dollars to launch a single balloon.

Radiosonde, via National Weather Service

That real time data is then used by meteorologists all around the United States in the form of computer models, including those working at the National Hurricane Center. Ryan Vipond, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Aberdeen, says, “knowing what’s going on that high in the atmosphere is really allowing us to see the weather patterns, allowing the hurricane center to better forecast and refine things. These additional launches that we have with these special balloons, twice a day, the more data that we get allows those forecasts to be more accurate.” The more accurate the data, the easier it is for meteorologists to develop a forecast which becomes especially important with a major hurricane moving towards the United States.

The reason why sites like Aberdeen and elsewhere in the United States are doing more launches is because the atmosphere is like a river; South Dakota and the Northern Plains are upstream while the East Coast is down stream. Systems that move through the Northern Plains eventually will move east, influencing their air. One example, Vipond said, was if there was a high pressure system over the the Great Lakes. He explained that if there was a high pressure system over the Great Lakes, the mid/upper level winds might push an incoming hurricane, like Irma, more west. While a low pressure system and its winds might pull an incoming hurricane north.

Launched Weather Balloon in Aberdeen, via NWS Aberdeen

The National Weather Service in Aberdeen has been launching extra balloons since Sunday, Ryan Vipond, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, says that they’ll continue to do this until they’re no longer needed but says that it’s humbly to be able to assist other meteorologists and the public during this difficult time.

Blaise Keller
KDLT Morning Meteorologist
Twitter – @blaisekellerr

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