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Two men about the release a large, white weather balloon from the top of a building in Phoenix.

How we use weather balloons

Did you know meteorologists can use balloons to aid in weather forecasting?

SRP’s weather balloon program measures vertical profiles of temperature, humidity, wind and pressure over the Valley. Both the local and global weather community benefit from this data.

SRP’s team of meteorologists manages the balloon program that provides valuable data to SRP and the National Weather Service. This data helps forecast thunderstorms within and near the Valley so SRP can properly prepare for and respond to outages, as well as inform dam capacity decisions and other aspects that affect efficient power supply.

Because the weather balloons aid in outage preparedness, we can then respond efficiently with the necessary staffing to ensure that you, the customer, can have your power restored as quickly and as safely as possible, saving you the headache.

Weather balloons in action

Weather balloons are also used to ensure that water quality isn’t negatively impacted. For example, the data provided by the balloons can help SRP divert stormwater away from city water treatment plants if necessary. Along with automated Doppler radar precipitation alert tools and web cameras, the data from weather balloons provided critical support for SRP meteorologists monitoring flash floods on the Bush Fire burn scar, burned soil and ground coverage.

It is assumed that any significant rainfall on severe burn scars will produce significant stormwater runoff. In the summer, rainfall and thunderstorms are generally synonymous. If the weather balloon data indicates that central Arizona’s air mass has unusually high amounts of water vapor, with the vertical wind profile supporting slow moving thunderstorms, then SRP meteorologists would expect an elevated risk of heavy rain on burn scars. In response, meteorologists must be prepared to monitor the weather overnight and notify water transmissions of the stormwater if needed.

The ash-laden runoff from the burn scar occurred downstream of Bartlett Dam and was at risk of entering the canal system. However, by working with the water transmission group blending the storm-water with water from Stewart Mountain and releasing some of the water into the Salt River rather than the canals, SRP meteorologists reduced the detrimental impacts to water quality in the canals from the Bush Fire.

Weather balloon program supports SRP’s water and power operations.

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