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A device launched into the atmosphere to gather ‘very valuable’ meteorological information has been found on farmland near Tayinloan.
The radiosonde would have been attached to a helium balloon and released into the air, taking highly accurate atmospheric measurements used for weather forecasting and monitoring climate change.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said that he ‘suspects strongly’ the instrument was released from the national weather service’s Castor Bay meteorological station but, without its serial number, which appears to have fallen off, it could not be confirmed.
The radiosonde, almost 10cm tall, 7cm wide and 6.5cm deep, was made by Finnish company Vaisala. The Met Office releases thousands of the devices from six locations across the UK each year.
Mr Madge told the Courier: ‘The instruments on the devices provide measurements of temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and wind direction, so they are very valuable in terms of providing meteorological information back to the Met Office.
‘They provide a continuous stream of information on all layers up through the atmosphere. Things like relative moisture or relative humidity, for example, can change as you ascend and having that one continuous thread of information through a slice of the atmosphere is something that is hard or impossible to replicate in any other way.’
Mr Madge explained that radiosondes, which are attached to helium-filled balloons and released in accordance with aviation guidelines, typically reach altitudes of between 20km and 38km before the balloons burst.
‘They are fitted with parachutes to slow their descent as they come back down to earth,’ he said. ‘That can take the instruments even further, so they can disperse quite a long way from the sites from which they were first released.’
The number released each day depends on types of weather conditions, with more launched to gain extra insight during particularly challenging forecasting conditions.
Mr Madge explained that the equipment provides basic information which complements all the other information the Met Office gathers from sources such as ground stations and aircraft.
He said: ‘They are extremely valuable because a lot of the other information we get is point source data but, with a radiosondes, we get that continual slice up through the atmosphere.
‘It is part of the jigsaw really. Meteorologists fit that information in with all the other billions of observations that the Met Office gets coming in from around the world each day and use it to produce forecasts.’