Extra weather balloons help predict Isaac’s path

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NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR – Predicting the path of Isaac is no small feat, and even though the storm currently sits over the Gulf, data collected Monday in Arkansas could help make the job a little easier. That’s because the National Weather Service in North Little Rock is launching extra weather balloons because of the storm.

“It has a temperature sensor on it, inside, and a humidity sensor is right here,” explained Emilie Nipper while holding up a radiosonde that will eventually be attached to a weather balloon. Radiosondes also collect information like barometric pressure, wind direction, and speed. When that data is then analyzed along with other data from weather balloons launched around the region, it helps predict the path of a storm.

“It goes into the computer and the computer spits out some complicated formulas and it helps us figure out where the hurricane is gonna go,” said Nipper.

Regardless of how good the data is though — predicting hurricanes is an inexact science. John Robinson of the National Weather Service says whatever ends up hitting the state, Arkansans need to be aware of two things.

Number one — yes, we could use rain, but be wary of too much.

“Especially when the ground is as dry and hard as it is right now,” said Robinson, “you get a tremendous amount of run-off. You end up with flash flooding even though we’re in the middle of a drought.”

Number two, back to that drought again — right now, trees in Arkansas are very weak.

Said Robinson, “when we have decent winds come along, we’re going to see far more of them blow over than we normally do.”

The National Weather Service isn’t sure how many more special weather balloons they’ll launch this week. It all depends on Isaac.

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