October 1, 2022

20 large weather balloons being launched from Seychelles to study water vapour levels

The researchers are using a fleet of 20 long-duration balloons to study the equatorial stratosphere for several months. (Albert Hertzog)

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(Seychelles News Agency) – Seychelles is being used as the base for an Earth observation programme using stratospheric super pressure balloons led by the French national scientific research centre, CNES.

A group of 60 researchers from CNES are in Seychelles undertaking the study called ‘Strateole 2’ in collaboration with the Seychelles Meteorological Authority. The study comes under the umbrella of the World Meteorological Organisation’s SPARC programme, or Stratosphere-troposphere Processes And their Role in Climate.

The researchers are using a fleet of 20 long-duration balloons to study the equatorial stratosphere for several months. Among the data that the pressurized balloons will collect are several measurements intended for the study of water vapour in the stratosphere and its impacts on climate and meteorology.

“We are very happy to be taking part in this study as it is not only one that is quite important on the international scene, but it will also help us locally when we are making our own projections,” said SMA’s chief executive, Vincent Amelie.

The balloon launch site was chosen to provide the best possible coverage of the intertropical zone and to optimize flight duration. The international airport of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, was identified as the site affording the best conditions.

Over the course of three to four months, the balloons will circumnavigate the planet twice and potentially overfly 96 countries as they collect their data. For the 2019-2020 validation campaign, eight balloons clocked up 680 flight days in total—an average of 85 days per flight—and six out of eight completed more than a full circle of the globe.

The second part of the campaign is taking place from mid-October to mid-December 2021 and will be monitored through April 2022.

The researchers are currently launching the balloons in the early hours of the day – when it is quieter and there are fewer flights leaving the International Airport at Pointe Larue.

The third and last campaign is scheduled for 2024-25.

“While the benefits will not be apparent immediately, we will be able to better advise policy and decision-makers on matters needing the data collected, such as the best locations to build dams as well predict when draughts may happen,” said Amelie.

In addition to the scientific benefit of holding the study in Seychelles, Amelie said that having “such a large group of scientists in the country also brings along economic benefits.” 

This is not the first time the Seychelles Meteorological Authority has worked with CNES, in 2008, it also undertook another campaign named SCOUT-03 in the region of the Equator. 


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