• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about... weather balloons. They are in widespread use today, but in Benjamin Franklin’s time weather balloons were regarded with skepticism, even fear.


CURWOOD: Twice a day, hundreds of weather balloons are released around the world at exactly the same time. They rise several miles into the atmosphere, carrying devices which measure air pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speed. It was on September third in 1872 that the U.S. Weather Bureau sent up its first balloon to take atmospheric measurements. Weather balloons had long been in Europe but, until then, Americans preferred kites for their atmospheric investigations. The American anti-balloon, pro-kite sentiment likely stems from none other than Benjamin Franklin, famous for tempting lightning with a kite-flown key in a thunderstorm. Mr. Franklin was America's witness to the first hydrogen balloon launch in Paris. At first, he was quite impressed by the balloon and at the possible scientific applications. But after it drifted several miles outside of Paris, the balloon burst and landed in a small village. Mr. Franklin's recollections of the event reveal how little understood these new flying contraptions were. In his words: "The country people who saw it fall were frightened, and attacked it with stones and knives. So it was much mangled." And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth