Twice a day for the past half century, a weather balloon has been launched from a research station in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Faced with the advancing seas that must engulf it, the outpost is now abandoned.
On March 31, a handful of workers operating the Chatham National Weather Station were evacuated on fears that the property could fall into the Atlantic Ocean. The last weather balloon was released before they left, and a demolition crew was to destroy the empty space this month.
Until recently, the weather station had a buffer of about 1
“We would have known for a long time that there was erosion, but the pace of it surprised everyone,” said Andy Nash, a meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Boston. “We felt we might have another 10 years, but then we started losing a leg bluff a week and realized we didn’t have years, we only had a few months. We were a few storms from a very big problem. “
Parking next to the weather station is already torn due to the collapsing ground, and the building is now only 30 meters from the edge of the bluff. Nash said his biggest fear is that a researcher, as he looks at a weather balloon as it is released, will inadvertently jump from the edge to his death.
“We’ve reached a point where we run out of space, and if you were concentrating on the bubble near the edge, oh, that wouldn’t be a good situation,” Nash said. “The balloon is quite big and full of helium, but it’s not big enough to hold someone. It will not save you. “
The meteorological station was established in 1970, initially launching meteorological balloons to measure temperature, humidity levels and wind speed, as well as operating a meteorological radar, which was later decommissioned.
The loss of the station will not compromise the overall observation of the weather, but it still leaves a gap – research sites like Chatham are scattered about 200 miles apart on the east coast of the United States.
Natural processes have reshaped what is now Cape Cod for millennia. About 11,000 years ago, a much larger mass of land flowed into the Atlantic Ocean just so that the shoreline of sand and mud could be swept away by the tides. Most recently a favorite vacation spot for the rich and famous, Cape Cod now looks like a hand flexing its biceps with Chatham perched on top of his elbow.
Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute based in Cape Cod, said that although the nose has changed its natural shape for centuries, rising seas and stronger storms caused by the climate crisis will accelerate the pace of change.
“It’s an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you’re building a permanent infrastructure here,” he said. “We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic. What happened to the station is an indication of what we will see along the coast. In a sense, we are unprepared for how much worse things will be with climate change. “
Nash said a new weather station would be installed on Cape Cod, this time on higher ground off the coast. “This is something that communities face up and down the coast,” he said. “The way I look at it is that again we have proof that Mother Nature is responsible here.”