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Published on Sep 20, 2012
Inside a cylinder that is about the size of a roll of paper towels lives a circuit board filled with sensors. It's called a dropsonde, or "sonde" for short. It's a work horse of hurricane forecasting, dropping out of "Hurricane Hunter" airplanes right into raging storms. As the sonde falls through the air, its sensors gather data about the atmosphere to help us better understand climate and other atmospheric conditions. "Dropsondes have a huge impact on our understanding of hurricanes and our ability to predict hurricanes," explains electrical engineer Terry Hock at the Earth Observing Laboratory in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) located in Boulder, Colorado. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Hock and his colleagues at NCAR have been designing, building and improving dropsonde technology for more than 30 years.