In preparation for the winter weather event that occurred on January 6th and 7th, NCSU Soundings Club organized a weather balloon launch. The launch, scheduled for approximately 7pm on January 6th, was an effort to evaluate thermodynamic conditions in Raleigh as precipitation fell in the area. The data from this launch would assist area forecasters in determining the possibility of a transition from rain to either freezing rain, sleet, or snow would occur that evening. In addition to Soundings Club officers, students and alumni of NCSU’s Meteorology program and reporters from local news station WRAL attended the launch. The launch, from the time of initial preparations to the post-launch data retrieval, was broadcast over social media via Facebook Live by WRAL Meteorologist Nate Johnson.
The balloon is actually launched at 20:30 in the above video.
The weather balloon launch occurred at approximately 7:30pm from the sixth floor roof of Jordan Hall. Thermodynamic data transmitted from the radiosonde attached to the bottom of the weather balloon showed a shallow layer of warm air aloft, pointing to the possibility of mixed precipitation involving sleet and freezing rain over the Raleigh area. The data was shared with local meteorologists and through social media outlets by members of the Soundings Club.
The above sounding data was used by National Weather Service (NWS) in Raleigh to confirm reports of mixed precipitation in the Triangle area. A later sounding launched by the club around 1am revealed that the shallow layer of warm air above the surface was still present. The NWS forecast office in Raleigh later tweeted some specifics from the sounding data sent by the club.
WRAL Reporter Adam Owens gathered footage from the balloon launch for his segment on FOX50’s 10pm newscast and on WRAL’s News at 11pm. Video clips of NCSU Meteorology students preparing the weather balloon for launch were pieced together with an interview of NCSU Meteorology Senior Brandon Black to explain the importance of the sounding data.
A special thank you to Nate Johnson, Adam Owens, NCSU Soundings Club, and all others in attendance!
Authors: Shaelyn McLamb, Levi Lovell, Alex Mitchell
Faculty Review Board: Dr. Sandra Yuter & Dr. Jay Levine