Abstract. Knowledge of vertical air motions in the atmosphere is important for meteorological and climate studies due to its impact on clouds, precipitation and the vertical transport of air masses, heat, momentum, and composition. It is among the most difficult quantities to measure because of its small magnitude. In this study, a descending radiosonde technique has been developed to detect the vertical wind speed (VW) in the atmosphere. The system is composed of a radiosonde and a 0.5-m diameter hard ball made of plastic foam that acts as a parachute. The radiosonde hangs under the hard ball by a string which is then cut when the instrument is elevated into the upper troposphere by a balloon. The VW is derived from the difference between the observed radiosonde descent rate and the calculated radiosonde descent rate in still air based on fluid dynamics. Deduction of the appropriate drag coefficient for the radiosonde is facilitated by the symmetrical shape of the parachute. An intensive radiosonde launch experiment was held in northern China during the summer seasons of 2010 to 2012. This study uses radiosonde data collected during the campaign to retrieve the vertical air velocity within the radiosonde altitude-detecting range. In general, the VW ranges from −1 to 1 m s−1. Strong vertical air motion (~2 m s−1) is seen in a few radiosonde measurements. Although considerable uncertainties exist in measuring weak vertical air motions, a case study shows that there is reasonable agreement between retrievals of VW in the lower atmosphere from the radiosonde and a wind profiler radar located at the launch site.
How to cite. Chen, H., Zhu, Y., Zhang, J., and Xuan, Y.: Vertical air motions derived from a descending radiosonde using a lightweight hard ball as the parachute, Atmos. Meas. Tech. Discuss., 6, 8107–8127, https://doi.org/10.5194/amtd-6-8107-2013, 2013.