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  1. Houston TRACER Radiosondes

    Back in October 2021, the excellent team behind Sondehub added several features to the map. They added launch site locations, grabbed from the official NOAA database. Clicking on a particular launch site allowed a user to generate a weeks worth of flight predictions based on the most recent GFS run. Cool!

    Oakland airport launch predictions

    The red lines on this prediction map of Oakland show the next 14 launches (7 days). As with any prediction of the future, the further out you go the worse the prediction.

    Reverse predictions (pdf) were also added, for predicting where a radiosonde was launched from. This feature would have been very helpful when I was trying to find the Monterey Bay launch location.

    Scrolling around the new map ...

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  2. Inuvik Radiosonde Launch

    Now that the pandemic has tapered off a bit, I took another short trip up to Inuvik, NWT. While I was up there, I visited the Environment Canada Weather Station, and participated in a radiosonde launch.

    Dempster Highway sign

    The big news out of Inuvik during this trip was that the road from the airport to the town has been paved! The road is much smoother, and I don't need to worry about windshield cracks every time a big truck passes.

    Since my 2016 visit, the site has been upgraded with modern equipment. The old Electrolyser Corporation hydrogen generator was replaced with a Proton Hogen unit, all housed in a modern building with explosion-proof light switches, electrical outlets, etc.

    Hogen Hydrogen Generator

    I arrived just before ...

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  3. Vandenberg Radiosonde Launches

    Just after setting up a remote receiving station in the hills above Santa Cruz for tracking radiosondes launched from Monterey Bay, I started noticing some weird stuff with the station. The station would detect a LMS6-403 radiosonde, but was unable to actually decode anything. The "jamming" signal was always on the same frequency of 400.259 MHz, and occurred daily around noon and midnight UTC.

    I speculated that it might be radiosondes from Vandenberg Space Force Base, approximately 300 km (~180 miles) south of the receiver along the coast of California. Although it would be cool to receive those radiosondes, the purpose of this station was to track the Monterey Bay radiosondes, so I put that frequency on the blacklist ...

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  4. Newfoundland Radiosonde Launches

    I recently went on a work trip to Newfoundland, Canada. Checking Sondehub before I left, I saw that there were two radiosonde launching stations on the Island of Newfoundland, one on the west side in Stephenville, and the other on the far east end in St. John's. And as luck would have it, I was traveling to Lewisporte, which is on the Trans-Canada highway almost halfway between the two launching sites. I might be able to receive both sondes at the same time!

    As far as I could tell, the radiosondes launched at both of these sites were Graw DFM-09P (pdf), which transmit around 403 MHz. One interesting thing about these radiosondes is that they don't transmit a serial number ...

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  5. Receiving Monterey Bay Radiosondes

    Taking a look at SondeHub one evening in early July 2021, I noticed some radiosondes down in the Monterey Bay, about 75 miles south of San Francisco. There seemed to be one per day in the afternoon on most days. The Naval Postgraduate School launches radiosondes very infrequently for their meteorology program, but these seemed to be launched from Watsonville or Salinas, not the main NPS campus in downtown Monterey.

    Early July 2021 Monterey radiosondes

    Then, on Monday July 12th, there was a flurry of radiosondes launched. I received a total of 5 of them from my station in Los Gatos. This station does not have good coverage in the direction of Monterey, and only starts receiving radiosondes when they rise up to 5,000 ...

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  6. Containerized AIS Decoding with RTL-SDR Dongle

    It's been about 6 months since I started receiving AIS signals using a RTL-SDR Blog v3 dongle. My station is decoding between 35 and 70 ships at any given time, depending on time of day and how many ships there are in San Francisco Bay.

    The RTL-SDR Blog v3 dongle is a really inexpensive software-defined receiver. The "official" version costs about $25, and knockoff versions can be had for $10 or less. However, there's a reason why knockoff versions are less than half price, they use very cheap components and drift like crazy. I have many friends who bought the cheap version only to find that they just don't work, then purchased another knockoff that also didn't work. So save ...

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  7. Two Radiosonde Recoveries in San Francisco

    The prevailing winds here in California blow from west to east, from the Pacific Ocean towards the Sierra Nevada mountains. Radiosondes launched from Oakland International Airport float in these winds, landing east of Oakland in the Central Valley, or south in the hills east of San Jose. I never recover the ones that land in the Central Valley, as driving 2 hours each direction during rush hour to recover a balloon is a bit too far for me. Only rarely do they land in populated areas in the Bay Area, and almost never on the Peninsula or in the city of San Francisco.

    This map (code below) shows the landing locations of all the radiosondes launched from Oakland since November ...

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  8. Telemetry from an Oakland Radiosonde Floater

    In the beginning of March, something happened to the regular cadence of radiosonde launches from Oakland Airport. No balloon was launched on March 11th 2300 UTC, nor the next standard launch window on March 12th 1100 UTC (5am Pacific time). The SDM Ops Status Messages had a 10142 error for Oakland, which is ground equipment failure. I'm guessing that something broke or got jammed on their autolauncher, or maybe they ran out of hydrogen gas.

    By the afternoon of March 12th, the issue appeared to be resolved, and there was three launches in quick succession. The first and third balloons, S3231708 and S2321334, were normal, but the middle balloon slowly rose and leveled out around 35,000 meters (~115,000 ...

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  9. An Atmospheric River of Radiosondes

    I recently installed a new antenna (see below), and checking SondeHub a few hours later I noticed a bunch of balloons west of Sacramento. Well, that's pretty interesting. There aren't any regular launches near Sacramento, so this must be something special. They seemed to be launched frequently, because when I stopped receiving one balloon I immediately start receiving the next.

    Radiosondes near Beale AFB

    These balloons were far away! I guess this new antenna works a lot better than the old one. Trying to back out the launch location, it seemed like they were being launched from Beale AFB, which is directly east of Yuba City. Maybe a military project? The military does launch a lot of radiosondes, but those are usually in Arizona ...

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