National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Public Information Statement 22-17 

National Weather Service Headquarters Silver Spring MD  

220 PM EST Tue Mar 29 2022 

To: Subscribers: 

 -NOAA Weather Wire Service 

 -Emergency Manager Weather Information Network 


 Other NWS Partners And Employees  

From: Michelle Mainelli, Acting Director  

 Office of Observations 

Subject: Changes in Weather Balloon Launch Frequency Effective March 29,   2022 

Effective March 29 and until further notice, the National Weather Service  is reducing the frequency of weather balloon launches at several upper air  locations in the United States due to a global supply chain disruption of  helium and a temporary issue with the contract of one hydrogen supplier.  The National Weather Service launches weather balloons from 101 upper air  sites throughout the United States and the Caribbean, using helium to  inflate the balloons at 12 of these sites. The agency converted the  remaining sites to hydrogen because it is cost effective and a more  reliable gas option. 

Approximately 9% of the total upper air sites are currently affected by  the gas shortage and temporary contract issue, including 5 of the 12  helium sites and 4 hydrogen sites. We anticipate that these issues will  impact additional upper air sites. To ensure there is enough gas on-hand  to launch balloons in support of forecasts during hazardous weather, the  affected sites have either reduced launches to once per day or suspended  flights during calm weather days. This temporary adjustment will not  impact weather forecasts and warnings. The affected sites benefit from data  collected by balloons launched from neighboring upper air sites. Be  assured we will take all steps possible to mitigate the supply chain and  contracting issues. 

Radiosondes are instruments attached to weather balloons that send back a  wide range of upper atmospheric data to support weather forecasts,  including temperature, dew point, relative humidity, barometric pressure,  wind speed, wind direction. Radiosondes are one of many technologies that  collect earth observation data for use in weather modeling and  forecasting. Data is also collected from instruments aboard commercial  aircraft, surface observing stations, satellites, radars, and buoys.  

The National Weather Service will continue converting sites to hydrogen  where locations, leases and safe operations allow, and as funding becomes  available.

If you or your organization have any questions about these changes, please  contact: 

Susan Buchanan 

Director of Public Affairs 

National Weather Service 

Phone: 202-834-5235 


National Service Change Notices are online at: