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Weather balloons to measure unfavorable conditions

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Within the next few weeks, you may see some unusually large unidentified objects making their way across Marine Corps Drive or by the Hagatna Boat Basin.  But fear not - the balloons are part of a research project conducted by a team from France.

Most Guam residents are familiar with the weather patterns and the excitement kicks in when we've got sunny skies for a family beach day. But a few friends from France are hoping for a little bit of bad weather - all in the name of science. "We hope to have a tropical cyclone, but until now it's been quiet in the Northwest Pacific basin, but we hope to have a least a tropical depression or something to test our system," explained Jean-Philippe Duvel.

He's is research director for LMD a meteorology research agency out of Toulouse, France. The team has been working with local National Weather Service officials for about a year now, with the project soon getting off the ground. "So the aeroclipper will go will be trapped in the eye of the cylcone at the surface and it will send in continue and in realtime the surface pressure in the center of the tropical cyclone. Give an opportunity to measure in continuous the intensity of the cyclone and to see and possibly also the rapid intensification of the cyclone that is not possible with satellite measurements," he said.

Duvel along with others are on island with the hopes to launch three miniature blimps or Aeroclippers into a tropical cyclone. He says at the moment, there is no real means to take measurements of the surface pressure in a tropical cyclone particularly in the center.

Andre Vargas, is also part of the French Research team with CNES - The French NASA equivalent.

Vargas gave us some technical insight on how the release will take place, saying, "The idea is to have these balloons released into the open sea and this system has the capacity to be captured by the typhoon without the risk of being destructed. So, it's a way to have a continuous measurement inside the height of the cyclone - when it works, so the idea of a tropical depression or cyclone, 200 or 300  kilometers to release the buoy system to be captured by the typhoon and the balloon will stay at the feet of about 30 meters above the sea."

This is the first time the team has come to Guam, noting it is the most ideal spot in the region after conducting a climatology study. "So you must have wind that is favorable, the aeroclipper is just following the wind, there is no way to direct it, there is no motor or something to direct the aeroclipper," he said.

The team is expected to be on island until the end of the month and hopes their research will provide better forecast models.

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