On the heels of recent news reports of Canada and the United States shooting down several flying objects, including an alleged Chinese “spy balloon,” inside their borders, WMO points out that weather balloons provide only a small fraction of millions of sightings are collected worldwide daily.

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden made public comments after days of speculation over three unmanned aerial vehicles shot down last weekend by the US military, saying they were “most likely tied to private businesses, recreational or research institutions.”

Valuable input for global system

More than 50 satellites collect information from space, and about 400 aircraft operated by some 40 commercial aircraft companies collect input from the sky, the WMO notes.

About 400 moored buoys, 1,250 drifting buoys and 7,300 ships assist from the oceans, in addition to 10,000 automated and land-based observation stations across the planet.

A weather balloon is being prepared for release at an Australian Antarctic station.

WMO/J party

A weather balloon is being prepared for release at an Australian Antarctic station.

1,000 daily flights

Every day, exfoliating latex balloons are released simultaneously from nearly 900 locations worldwide. Nearly 1,000 balloons collect daily observations that provide real-time input.

The valuable information collected contributes to computer forecasting models, local data for meteorologists to make forecasting and predicting storms, climate monitoring and data for research to better understand the weather and climate processes.

Computer forecast models using weather balloon data are used by all forecasters worldwide, the WMO said.

Equipped with battery-powered radiosondes that capture observations, the floating data collectors are airborne for about two hours.

Up to 35 km high

The measure pressure, wind speed, temperature and humidity from just above the ground, to heights of up to 35 kilometers, sustaining temperatures as cold as -95°C (-139°F), before bursting and falling back to earth under a parachute.

Playing one key role as part of the world’s global observing network for decades they are the primary source of aboveground data. More than two-thirds of the weather balloon stations make observations twice a day and another 100 and 200 report daily.

Their valuable input feeds it Global Observing Systemamong the most ambitious and successful instances of international cooperation in the past 60 years, WMO said.

The system consists of individual surface and space-based observing systems owned and operated by a variety of national and international agencies.