Improving our balloon launching capabilities

We are delivering a significant upgrade to our Automatic Meteorological Balloon Launching System (AMBLS) network.

Why use balloons

We use balloons to take precise measurements from Earth's upper atmosphere.

This vital data enhances our understanding of the climate. We use it to produce our forecasts and warnings.

These measurements include:

  • temperature
  • pressure
  • humidity
  • wind speed and direction.

Recording upper atmosphere climate measurements is one of our international obligations. It's a national responsibility under the Convention of the World Meteorological Organisation.

How balloons collect data

Balloons filled with hydrogen gas can travel hundreds of kilometres to the upper atmosphere.

A battery-powered instrument about the size of a TV remote control is attached by a string.

It's called a radiosonde, and it takes the measurements.

For more information about weather balloons see our Balloon-based weather observations fact sheet.

Returning data to Earth

A cardboard target below the radiosonde allows the device to be tracked by radar.

A parachute helps the balloon reach the ground safely.

Improving weather services

We are upgrading existing AMBLS or installing new, enhanced AMBLS at or near existing balloon launching systems.

Benefits to the community, emergency services and local industries include:

  • more reliable local weather measurements
  • a more resilient network due to effective ongoing maintenance
  • enhanced delivery of weather information services.

Automation of balloon launches means we can:

  • release a weather balloon at any time. For example, during significant weather events
  • increase data quality and quantity, for more accurate forecasts and warnings
  • protect our staff from the risks of manual launch. The balloons are filled with highly-flammable hydrogen, and some launches take place during severe weather.

Forecasts and warnings continue to come from our specialist teams of meteorologists, hydrologists and climatologists. AMBLS are maintained by skilled technicians at our observation hubs across Australia.

Construction process

Each AMBLS project is unique. Many factors can affect the delivery timeline. For example, severe weather and COVID-19 restrictions.

In the case of installing a new AMBLS, it typically takes 9–12 months from the start of the project until the new launching system begins operating. We let the local community know if there are delays.

Services are not usually disrupted during the go-live phase.

Site selection
Selecting the right site is complex. We consider factors such as:
  • lines of sight, now and into the future
  • obstructions
  • access to power and data communications
  • land ownership
  • other local concerns
Design and construction
  • Building approvals gained.
  • Components ordered and delivered.
  • Site designs created.
  • Foundations laid.
Key components are installed, including the:
  • antenna
  • launcher vessel
  • hydrogen gas storage
The robotics room and communications network assembled.
We test and check data quality to confirm the ABMLS is operating properly.
Any outages or issues are addressed.
At some sites, the new equipment may operate alongside existing manual balloon launching.
Go live
The original balloon launching site is decommissioned.
The new system begins recording data. It provides real-time observations that improve services for the community.

More project details

For the location, status and timing of all of our current observation network projects, see our Current projects page.