Ask Josh Fitzpatrick: Sandy Hook Elementary Visit

UPDATE: Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick visited the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School recently, releasing balloons into the atmosphere. Many were found hundreds of miles away! Find out where.

Recently I spent some time at Sandy Hook Elementary School in beautiful Elliott County, Kentucky.  This first photo is with the Kindergarten class.

A great group of kids and the boy in the UK shirt, Tyler, wants my job one day! 

I spoke to the 4th, 5th and 6th graders about the atmosphere and the jet stream. 

What's the jet stream you ask?  Well it's the river of air or wind way up in the atmosphere, above 20,000 ft., where the jets fly.  This current of air moves our weather systems. 

It was important the students knew about wind currents because later that day, more than a couple hundred balloons were released into the UK blue sky. 

Each helium filled balloon has a tag attached to it with the schools name, address and phone number for the person who finds it could get in contact with the school to let them know how far the balloon traveled.

It was a windy day with surface winds from the west at about 15 mph and the jet stream was fierce, blowing at about 100 mph from the southwest to the northeast.  It is possible for those balloons to travel a great distance before they pop or float back down and land back to Earth.  They would have popped by the end of the day so the tags are out there somewhere.  More than likely over the Northeastern U.S. as that's where the wind would have taken them if they made it that far.

Why do most of the balloons pop?  As you go up in the atmosphere, the pressure drops, causing the balloon the expand enough for it to burst.  What goes up, must come down.

It'll be interesting to see where they end up.  It's also possible they land in a remote area where no one finds the tags.  Hopefully that's not the case!  Keep checking back as I'll keep you updated on if anyone responds back.

Keep up the great work at Sandy Hook Elementary!  A special thank you to the Principal, Vanessa Maggard for inviting me and for making some delicious homemade fudge!  Yum!


The good news is many of the balloons were found!  Some were located north of the border in Canada.  A small town called Kingston, ON Canada.  That's near Ottawa and about 680 miles away from Sandy Hook, KY.  Other balloons were found south of Buffalo, NY in the town of Randolph, NY on Peggy Root's farm.  Here's a photo.

How cool is that?  The balloons didn't make it high enough into the atmosphere to pop so they landed as they lost helium and floated back to the ground.  The principal at Sandy Hook Elementary tells me everyone is excited to find out their experiment was a total success.  I'm also glad my forecast for the to land in the northeast held true :-)

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