Weather Balloons Polluting Great Barrier Reef

Tangaroa Blue Foundation have been the first to calculate the impact of weather balloons on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The findings were part of a collaborative project with James Cook University and were published today in the international journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Tangaroa Blue Foundation first identified the problem during beach cleanup events in 2011, and we tracked weather balloons and their components through cleanups and data collection around the country through the Australian Marine Debris Initiative.

“With both the Federal and State Department of Environment prioritising protection of the Great Barrier Reef, it is shocking to find that another Federal Government agency – the Bureau of Meteorology is releasing pollution both into this World Heritage Area and other sites around the country on a daily basis” said Heidi Taylor, Managing Director from Tangaroa Blue Foundation.

Given the high numbers of balloon fragments found in Far North Queensland we used the Great Barrier Reef for a case study for the research and we highlight the numbers of these balloons and the equipment attached, being released into the environment and the associated impacts.

“The Bureau of Meteorology, while providing a vital weather service for the public, needs to get with the times and stop using outdated and environmentally unfriendly practices to predict weather.” Heidi Taylor said. “Alternatives do exist that would prevent more than 100 weather balloons being released into the environment every day.”

The paper brings together data from on-ground marine debris monitoring efforts by Tangaroa Blue Foundation, and modeling to show the end points of these balloons and the impacts they cause by Dr Owen O’Shea from the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Bahamas and Dr Mark Hamann from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at James Cook University.

“Our hope is that the release of this research paper increases the awareness of Federal Government agencies and acts as a trigger for them to reassess the use of weather balloons for predicting weather patterns. Implementing changes could prevent more than 36,500 weather balloons and their components from being needlessly polluted into the environment every year” said Dr Mark Hamann from James Cook University.

Published by