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July-August 2013

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The Ubiquitous Radiosonde

The radiosonde, a meteorological instrument that is carried aloft by weather balloons to transmit data on atmospheric conditions, represents the fusion of man's ingenuity and inquisitiveness about the weather spanning over four centuries. A cornerstone in weather observations and forecasting, radiosondes are used worldwide to give us a better picture of the atmosphere at any given moment.

The invention of the thermoscope by Galileo (1593) and the barometer by Torricelli (1643) allowed the character of the atmosphere to be quantified, but this was limited to only the ground level and a person needed to be present. It would be almost 200 years until a thermometer and barometer were carried above the earth's surface by Nicolas-Louis Robert and Jacques Alexandre César Charles over France on what was one of the first manned balloon flights in 1783.

JAN NULL is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and founder of Golden Gate Weather Services. He is also a Lecturer/Researcher at San Francisco State University and former National Weather Service Lead Forecaster.

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