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Researchers learn about balloon-borne ozone sampling

May 30, 2019 - Personnel from four different universities and TCEQ took part in launching a balloon equipped with an ozonesonde, which measures ozone in the atmosphere and transmits data back to researchers on the ground.

Into the sky it goes, as air quality researchers and students look on, craning their necks and squinting as it eventually slips out of sight. The launch of this big white weather balloon is part of the Texas Air Quality Workshop hosted by TCEQ.

The workshop brings together researchers and staff from Baylor, Rice, St. Edwards, and the University of Houston, who frequently collaborate on air quality research with TCEQ. The balloon launch gives attendees an idea of how long it takes to prepare for a launch, as well as providing hands-on experience in real-time data collection.

The payload is an ozonesonde, a device that measures the concentration of ozone in the air and transmits the data back to the researchers. The device also measures humidity, temperature, wind direction, wind speed, altitude, and barometric pressure. It collects and transmits the data the entire time it travels up through the atmosphere. Eventually, the balloon pops, and the instruments float safely back to earth via a parachute. The collected data is then analyzed and provide critical insights for technical staff working on state implementation plans to improve air quality.

“Since an ozonesonde launch is probably one of the more dramatic data collection and measurement techniques, it is used to demonstrate the significance of using a variety of collection tools for air quality studies,” said Raj Nadkarni, the TCEQ air quality planner who organized the event.

The entire day was designed for sharing the results of numerous air quality research projects funded by TCEQ with the universities and to provide a hands-on review of the various tools used to collect data. The teamwork between university researchers and staff illustrates the importance of science and data collection to the process of identifying what contributes to ozone levels.