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Radio soundings

Twice a day, MeteoSwiss carries out radio sounding using sounding balloons for the purpose of measuring key meteorological parameters in the atmosphere at high elevations. Radio sounding is one of the pillars of meteorological services, and is now an essential component of climate research.

Emagrams as images

Datum & Uhrzeit
27.09.2022 12:00 UTC28.09.2022 00:00 UTC
PayerneGIFPayerne, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(130kB)GIFPayerne, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(130kB)
Payerne & MünchenGIFPayerne & München, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(140kB)GIFPayerne & München, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(140kB)
Payerne & StuttgartGIFPayerne & Stuttgart, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(140kB)GIFPayerne & Stuttgart, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(130kB)
Payerne & Novara CameriGIFPayerne & Novara Cameri, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(140kB)GIFPayerne & Novara Cameri, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(140kB)
Decoded data as text files

This data is only checked to a certain extent and can include gaps (replacement data).

Datum & Uhrzeit
27.09.2022 12:00 UTC28.09.2022 00:00 UTC
PayerneTXTPayerne, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(10kB)TXTPayerne, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(10kB)
MünchenTXTMünchen, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(10kB)TXTMünchen, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(10kB)
StuttgartTXTStuttgart, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(10kB)TXTStuttgart, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(10kB)
Novara CameriTXTNovara Cameri, 27.09.2022 12:00 UTC(10kB)TXTNovara Cameri, 28.09.2022 00:00 UTC(10kB)

How radiosounding works

Enlargement: The picture shows the circular balloon probe and an employee of MeteoSwiss in Payerne who lets them ascend.
Manual launch of radiosonde balloon into the atmosphere.

A radiosonde equipped with various measuring devices is carried up to high altitudes by a balloon filled with hydrogen or helium. This weather balloon rises at a more or less constant speed and is carried away by the wind flow. The radiosonde is equipped with a GPS system for recording its position, allowing the altitude, wind speed and wind direction to be determined. Every second, the radiosonde transmits its measurements by radio to the station on the ground. The vertical profiles of these vertical parameters can thus be ascertained, up to the altitude at which the balloon bursts. The radiosonde can be launched either manually or automatically.

Radiosoundings in Switzerland

Switzerland’s only aerological sounding station is situated in the MeteoSwiss regional centre in Payerne. Every day, a sonde is released at 23:00 hours and 11:00 hours UTC (Universal Time Coordinated). The balloon is launched one hour before the standard time 00 and 12 UTC to make sure that the tropospheric radiosounding data are available to the users at 00 and 12 UTC. The balloons are monitored up to an altitude of 30-35 km. With an average ascent rate of 5 m/s, a sounding lasts around two hours. In addition to wind speed and wind direction, the parameters of air pressure, temperature and humidity are measured during the soundings. Nowadays, radiosondes are released using a fully automated system. Certain special radiosondes measure additional parameters such as the concentration of ozone or aerosols, which require the presence of operators. The MeteoSwiss scientists also launch research flights in which several sondes are fixed underneath the same balloon so as to ensure the quality and traceability of the measurements. 

The data collected during the ascent of the sonde are transmitted by radio to the receiver at Payarne and then sent to the MeteoSwiss database and out around the world via the World Meteorological Organisation’s telecommunications network.


Global sounding station network

There are over 600 aerological sounding stations dotted around the world. Soundings are performed simultaneously at these stations every 12 hours. The information obtained here is made available to all national weather services via special communication networks. Here, the information is plotted in the upper-level weather maps and analysed as well as being used as the basis for weather forecasting models. Around 170 of these stations fulfil more stringent requirements and are used for long-term climate monitoring. The Payerne aerological station is part of a reference global climate monitoring network (GRUAN-GCOS Reference Upper-Air Network).

Data from radio soundings