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Ozonesonde at Hilo International Airport

Aloha from Hawaii!

At 8:30am on Wednesday July 2nd, I went to the NOAA offices at Hilo International Airport to help scientists Darryl Kuniyuki and David Nardini launch a weather balloon with scientific equipment used to measure the atmosphere.  There was so much to see here, and the really cool part was how small and lightweight all of the equipment was to go up in the weather balloon.

Inside the balloon launch facilities, Darryl was filling the weather balloon with hydrogen.  I know how flammable hydrogen can be so I asked Darryl why that over helium, and he informed me that helium was just far too expensive for the amount they use.  Additionally I surveyed their equipment and learned that they produce their own hydrogen by electrolyzing water, and capturing the hydrogen produced. 

Next, I visited with David as he prepared the weather equipment inside of a small styrofoam container. There was a miniture air-pump that sucked in the air from the atmosphere into each one of the recordning devices.  Everything from humidity, temperature, pressure, and altitude were measured. The coolest experiment on the weather balloon was the ozonesonde.  Essentially air was pumped into a solution of Potassium Iodide (KI) and the ozone will react with the solution producing a weak electrical signal.  This information is then transmitted along with the rest of the tests via radio signal back to Davids computer so he can monitor the weather balloon.

The balloon will travel up to 35km high (18.6 miles or roughly 100,000 feet) (Felix Baumgartner anyone!!!) before it bursts and the instruments fall back to earth with a parachute.

I assisted both David and Darryl in launching the balloon, and discovered that they rarely get the instruments back.  Oftentimes after the instruments decend, they fall into the ocean, or the deep regions of the jungle on the island.  However, if someone were to come accross one of the instruments on the ground, they receive a $50 reward from NOAA for returning the equipment.

We watched on Davids computer as the balloon traveled upward, and it takes roughly 80 minutes for the balloon to travel to 35km, and then another 45 minutes to return to earth.  This launch went off flawlessly, and the information gathered was exactly what the scientists in Boulder, CO wanted to see.

Well thats all for today.


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