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Kyle Griffin
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One heck of a trip. Really hoping Google is willing to share this weather data - would be a game-changer in the world of forecasting and satellite observations.

These balloons travel in the lower stratosphere, near the tropopause for most of their life. That's one of the most under-sampled regions of the atmosphere, yet it's also one of the most important in terms of making weather predictions in the 5-30 day time frame.

+Project Loon, bravo for the good work, and hope to see your weather data soon.
And the 2016 Golden Balloon goes to…..

Our annual Golden Balloon Awards recognize the Loon Balloons that have demonstrated epic feats of strength and stamina. They also shine a spotlight on some of the technical progress the team has made behind the scenes to bring us even closer to bringing connectivity to people around the world.

While in past years we’ve highlighted multiple high flyers, this year, one balloon stood out for its combination of endurance, agility and power. We called it The Bolt. The Bolt demonstrated an unmatched combination of navigational accuracy, balloon durability and sheer energetic endurance to set it apart from the flock.

A true all rounder, The Bolt set a new project record for balloon longevity, staying aloft for 190 days.

During its six-month-long adventure, The Bolt sailed more than 122,000 kilometers through the sky and hit top speeds of 162 kilometers per hour. To fuel this marathon effort, the balloon’s solar panels generated 1.72 gigajoules of energy over the course of the flight. If that amount of energy was deployed in seconds instead of months, it would be enough to spark a lightning bolt.

The Bolt’s high altitude tour started in Puerto Rico. From there, it floated over 19 different countries and three continents, sometimes reaching lofty heights of 20,353 meters - that’s the same view you’d have from the top of 65 Eiffel Towers stacked atop one another. Our new navigational algorithms, designed to maximize the time that balloons spend over areas where they can deliver connectivity to people on the ground, helped keep The Bolt on track. Bobbing up and down between the layers of the stratospheric winds, The Bolt made more than 30,000 maneuvers to stay on course during its global adventure.

In addition to the wild winds, The Bolt also endured extreme temperatures. Some nights it got as cold as -83C. That’s just a few degrees away from our record low of -90, and as icy as an Antarctic winter night. The Bolt is one of our “Nighthawk” designs, and its combination of strength and durability ensured that it was well equipped to withstand these extremes. (You can check out how we’ve evolved our balloon designs to make our fleet even stronger over the years here:

After travelling the equivalent of three circumnavigations around the world, we decided it was time to bring our rugged adventurer back home. So we navigated The Bolt back to our landing site in the Nevada desert for a well earned retirement. The lessons we’ve learned from The Bolt’s explorations will help us make future balloons even stronger. 

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As if #Matthew needed another reason to be creepy. At 7am EDT this morning, the IR satellite image looked like this...
Rather creepy view (IR satellite) of Hurricane Matthew early this morning as it moved onto the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti early this morning... from @stuostro 

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This is awesome. For $98, have your own copy of the set of records that are on Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft - literally, the two man-made objects that are the farthest from Earth right now.

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Ph.D. Defense, entitled "Investigations of the preferred modes of North Pacific jet variability, their downstream impacts, and tropical and extratropical precursors"

This is a test event stream, please bear with us in case of any technical difficulties.

Time extended EOF (TE-EOF) analysis is employed to examine the synoptic-scale evolution of the two leading modes of north Pacific jet stream variability, namely its zonal extension/retraction (TE-EOF 1) and the north/south shift of its exit region (TE-EOF 2). Composite analyses are constructed preceding and following peaks in the principal component associated with each of the two TE-EOFs, providing insight into the preferred evolutions of the north Pacific jet. Jet extension events are associated with an anomalous Gulf of Alaska cyclone, while jet retractions are associated with an anomalous ridge over the Aleutians. Similar but shifted upper level patterns are noted with the corresponding poleward/equatorward shifted jet phases, with the poleward (equatorward) shift of the jet exit region associated with anomalous low-level warmth (cold) over western North America.
Such composites also suggest connections between certain phases of these leading modes of jet variability and deep convection in the tropics, a connection that has been challenging to physically diagnose in previous studies. The isentropic pressure depth measures the mass contained within an isentropic layer in a given grid column, enabling the tracking of mass exhausted by deep convection. The gradient of isentropic pressure depth is directly associated with the vertical geostrophic wind shear in that layer and thus provides a means to track the influence of convective mass flux on the evolution of the jet stream. A case study focused on the extreme North American warm episode of March 2012 demonstrates how positive pressure depth anomalies from a strong MJO event impact the jet stream over eastern Asia and drive a portion of the mid-latitude response that leads to the flow amplification and subsequent downstream warmth. This study demonstrates one way by which isentropic pressure depth can diagnose the impacts of tropical deep convection on the mid-latitude circulation.
Using TE-EOFs, composites of isentropic pressure depth are constructed, to examine the evolution of pressure depth anomalies preceding each phase of the two leading modes of jet variability. In jet extension events, a large negative pressure depth anomaly in the 315-330 K isentropic layer and a positive pressure depth anomaly in the 340-355 K isentropic layer align north and south of the climatological jet exit region, respectively. A similar but opposite configuration is found in jet retraction events. During poleward shifted jet events, the configuration of pressure depth anomalies is comparable to that observed in jet extension events, but shifted poleward. Positive pressure depth anomalies in each set of events predominantly originate from either the Maritime Continent or East Asia and track along the climatological jet before impacting the exit region of the jet stream. Negative pressure depth anomalies have similar upstream origins before moving through the jet in a similar manner. These composite evolutions provide insight into the synoptic-scale evolutions that precede the preferred modes of jet variability, highlighting the influence of both mid-latitude weather systems and mass flux from tropical deep convection on North Pacific jet variability.

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Yes, this is what I needed to do instead of writing tonight...

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A bit of a tongue-in-cheek (yet also serious) perspective on why Guantanamo inmates are supporters of Ghana's national football team. Yes, it does come down to the fact that they regularly beat the United States at the World Cup.

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It's something we've all wanted to do...reply to a spam email. See what happens. This guy has a 10 min video about what happened when he did - definitely worth the time for a good laugh.

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Another year of impressive Loon activity. I hope this can move to more real-world tests and applications in 2016...
It’s that time of year again folks! The red-carpet is out and the tuxedos and cocktail dresses are back from the dry-cleaners just in time for the glitz and glamour of our second annual Golden Balloon Awards.

This year’s awards shine the spotlight on some of the behind-the-scenes progress the team has made toward launching a ring of connectivity around the globe in 2016. We’ve been pushing the limits in testing this year, getting balloons up in the air faster, traveling further, and providing connections over longer and longer distances. So without further ado, we give you the best of the best from 2015...

#1 The Speed Racer - It would take the average clown at a birthday party 128 hours to inflate one of our tennis court sized Loon balloons and release it into the stratosphere (assuming the clown doesn’t pass out first), and by that point all the cake would be gone! Thankfully, we use our gigantic auto-launcher, custom designed to get Project Loon balloons from the box to the stratosphere quickly, safely and consistently. This year the team racked up a launch record of just 29 minutes to fill, lift and launch a Loon balloon into the stratosphere.

#2 The Globetrotter - Project Loon balloons have now travelled over 17 million kilometers since the project began, and this globetrotting balloon covered 113,000 km of them in just one flight, our longest distance traveller of 2015. Launched in May, the Globetrotter embarked on a journey of epic proportions, drifting in the stratosphere above 17 different countries before being brought to land in our Chilean recovery zone for a well-deserved retirement.

#3 The Dynamic Duo - Balloon-to-balloon communication allows Project Loon to connect even the most remote areas by bouncing signal across multiple balloons in the sky and back down to users many, many kilometers away. But, this is no easy task - transmitting data between balloons requires an accuracy equivalent to pointing a signal at a can of soda - 20 km up in the air and swaying in the wind! This award recognizes the tag-team effort of two very special balloons in demonstrating balloon-to-balloon connectivity. Launched in June as a simultaneous launch, this adorable couple were far from inseparable, at one point drifting over 100 km apart while data was continuously transmitted between them, the longest distance over which we have demonstrated balloon-to-balloon connectivity in the stratosphere.
Golden Balloon Awards 2015
3 Photos - View album

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