On January 15th 2014, Tangaroa Blue Foundation received a response letter from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) updating us of their plans to reduce the impact of weather balloons and their components on the environment.
In the letter, BoM stated that they are committed to minimising any negative environmental impacts arising from their operations through the reduction of the number of balloon releases; and using sustainable materials where possible.
As we have previously reported up to 100 weather balloons are released into the environment daily from BoM offices around Australia. Each balloon release consists of a large balloon, an approximately 1m x 1m x 1m polystyrene target with a silver lining, and at night a torch with AA batteries. These helium filled balloons rise to high altitudes and the silver lining allows the radar to lock and track them. Once the balloon reaches a certain height it bursts and all the components fall back to earth, often ending up in the ocean.
We are pleased to announce that the BoM has now discontinued releasing weather balloons from a number of locations including: Canberra, Carnarvon, Ceduna, East Sale, Eucla, Launceston, Mildura, and Tennant Creek. During the next two years, subject to operational requirements, they are also planning to discontinue releasing weather balloons from Cairns, Coffs Harbour, Halls Creek, Longreach, and Mackay.
Tangaroa Blue Foundation believes that the reduction in balloons being released from the stations above is a definite step in the right direction and will help reduce the impacts that these components have on the enviornment.
BoM has stated that weather balloons still collect certain types of data including temperature and humidity, that can’t be collected by any other means, however we still believe that a more environmentally friendly material be sourced to construct the targets out of, instead of polystyrene foam which is currently used.
BoM has acknowledged the work of Tangaroa Blue Foundation and welcomes the interest that has been shown on the issue of weather balloons.