On Cloud Nine: Balloon that steals weatherman's thunder

Weather balloon being inflated at the Meteorological Service Singapore's Centre for Climate Research Singapore in Paya Lebar.
Weather balloon being inflated at the Meteorological Service Singapore's Centre for Climate Research Singapore in Paya Lebar.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The balloon that steals the weatherman's thunder

Last month, the Meteorological Service Singapore's (MSS) Upper Air Observatory became the first in the equatorial tropics to join a global network of weather stations that shares long-term climate data records to study atmospheric processes and determine global climate trends.

The observatory was conferred Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Reference Upper-Air Network (GRUAN) certification status on May 13 - one of 26 such sites around the world.

Since the 1950s, a large weather balloon has been released twice a day - at dawn and at dusk - into the skies above Singapore.

Starting its journey at the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, the inflatable sphere - 1.62m in diameter - can rise up to 35km above ground in about 90 minutes.

An instrument called a radiosonde is attached to the balloon. It gathers data about the temperature, air pressure, moisture and winds in the atmosphere, and sends it back to the weather station.

Coupled with the hundreds of weather stations dotted over the island, the trusty latex orbs are used by the MSS to predict whether it will rain or shine in Singapore.

Here, we look at some gadgets being used to monitor the weather.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2019, with the headline 'On Cloud Nine'. Print Edition | Subscribe