- Weather instruments first took to the skies over a century ago attached to kites.
Now-a-days, meteorologists still send up equipment for the valuable information it can provide. But this technology has improved, even over recent decades.
The National Weather Service launches weather balloons carrying atmospheric instruments from more than 90 stations, twice a day. That's a little more than 5 thousand a month, and nearly 65-thousand balloons a year.
This practice has been going on since the late 1930's.
So what are the chances one of these will fall back to earth and land in your backyard? Still not very good.
That's why the one Glenn and his wife found in their backyard one day was special. "Just walking along, seeing something white. Just figured it was a piece of garbage or styrofoam, and when I picked it up I saw some sort of computerized something or other. It had a transistor thing on it, then I realized it probably wasn't garbage."
What they found is called a radiosonde, according to Green Bay National Weather Service Meteorologist Ashley Wolf. "When we are getting information back from the radiosonde, it's actually sending us the temperature, dewpoint, and then windspeeds as it rises. It will go up about 90 thousand feet before it pops and then it's actually attached to a parachute along the string, so that it will drift down to the surface."
But this particular radiosonde wasn't launched today, yesterday, or even a week ago. Not even close, says Glenn. "There was this envelope rolled up in there, and the date on it was sometime back in '89. You could tell it was laying on the ground for sometime, but I didn't realize it was there for that long."
Back then they did look something like a piece of a styrofoam cooler you'd buy at a near by gas station.
But times and technology have changed. Now they look like something you'd find filled with "kung pow chicken" from your local chinese take-out restaurant.
Yet, this particular piece of equipment holds another secret. It was launched from Omaha, Nebraska. "About a hundred to a hundred and fifty miles on a regular day," says Wolf, "They can go a little farther with the stronger winds."
This balloon travelled past the normal range, covering about 6 hundred miles, and landing in Crandon. A trip that would take you about 10 hours in a car.
The distance travelled is possibly a record according the National Weather Service in Omaha.
Who knew? What looked like a piece of garbage in the woods actually held secrets of weather history.