Pat Shingleton: "Balloons-Still Useful"
As technology changes and advances weather forecasting and assisting in accuracy, old-time methods are also of value. Pilot or pibal balloons were one of the first methods of determining the condition of winds-aloft. These balloon observations were useful to early aviators and were extensively used during World War I. Balloons are still launched, twice a day, from the National weather Service Center in Slidell. As noted, today it's called the National Weather Service but back then it was called the Meteorological Service of the U.S. Signal Corps. In 1923 nearly 5000 pilot balloon observations were taken; kept in sight at a distance of 60 miles and sometimes to heights of 20 miles. Before balloons, the first reliable observations of upper air winds came from instrumented kites. Benjamin Franklin initiated the use of kites for weather experiments and by the 1890s observations of the atmosphere were common due to the development of steel piano wire. The wire supported the weight of the kite and the attached instrument packages measured temperature, atmospheric pressure and humidity.