NWS Cutting Back on Weather Balloon Launches

By Brittany Van Voorhees.

Weather balloons are a critical tool used by meteorologists to produce accurate forecasts. Due to supply chain issues and a shortage of hydrogen, the National Weather Service (NWS) has announced they are reducing the number of weather balloon launches.

The NWS currently launches weather balloons from 101 upper-air sites throughout the United States and the Caribbean – with 92 of those in the U.S.

Currently, both hydrogen and helium are used to inflate the balloons.

In February, WCNC Charlotte’s Brittany Van Voorhees spoke with NWS Greenville-Spartanburg warning coordination meteorologist Trisha Palmer about the pros and cons when it comes to weather balloons.

Hydrogen is cheaper and more reliable. However, one of the big reasons why some sites still use helium is the fact that hydrogen is flammable. Palmer explained that the NWS in Tallahassee, Florida, has its upper-air site on the campus of Florida State University. This limits its ability to use hydrogen.

Now, due to global supply chain issues and a temporary issue with the contract of one hydrogen supplier, the NWS is reducing the number of launches at severe upper-air sites across the country.

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