In the mid-1800s, very little was known about weather and meteorology. There was no way to accurately forecast the weather because the scientists of the day knew very little about the atmosphere.

So in 1862, British scientist James Glaisher and hot air balloonist Henry Coxwell decided to increase their knowledge by riding a 90-foot balloon into Earth's upper atmosphere in order to measure temperature and humidity.

At 29,000 feet, Glaisher lost consciousness in the thin air. Coxwell hung on, but with air temperatures near 50 below zero, his hands began to freeze. Upon reaching an altitude of 37,000 feet, Coxwell was able to use his teeth to pull the cord and release air, allowing the balloon to descend. Today, unmanned weather balloons loaded with instruments and radio transmitters are released into the upper atmosphere twice a day all around the world. Data from these weather balloons provide critical information to contemporary computer model forecasts.

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