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QC National Weather Service launching more weather balloons to help track Hurricane Ian

Since Saturday Sep. 24, the NWS station in Davenport and many across the U.S. have launched balloons every hour to support hurricane tracking efforts.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Hurricane Ian may be over a thousand miles away from the Quad Cities - but even here, the National Weather Service is doing what it can to help.

The Davenport station has been launching more weather balloons to support storm tracking efforts.

"More or less, every upper air site east of the Rocky Mountains has been launching balloons every six hours in support of Hurricane Ian," NWS Quad Cities Meteorologist Brian Pierce said.

Weather balloons are an important tool for making predictions. They track wind direction, speed, temperature and other useful data points.

The balloons typically last for 90 to 120 minutes in the air, flying as high as 20 to 25 miles above the Earth's surface.

"The atmosphere is three dimensional, and so at the surface, you have observations that's only in two dimensions," Pierce said. "So you need the balloon soundings in order to get the third dimension to happen."

Pierce explained that extreme winds make it challenging for Florida meteorologists to launch balloons, so NWS stations all over are lending support.

Despite many launches being far away from Florida, the combined data helps.

"There's been studies to show the additional balloon flights do help refine things," Pierce said. "The models step out in time with a prediction, and then the real data the balloons are supplying with the extra flights are compared against what the model predicted. And then corrections are made so that way everything gets better."

According to NASA, hurricanes can release as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs.

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