Southwest Airlines National Weather Service UPS data Nate Silver
Southwest Airlines to Gather Weather Data (Ben/flickr)

Southwest Airlines to Collect Weather Data

The National Weather Service will benefit from data procured by the commercial airliner

Southwest Airlines National Weather Service UPS data Nate Silver

Sunny news for weather nerds: Southwest Airlines, which has the world’s largest fleet of 737s, will be outfitting 87 of these aircraft with sensors to measure air moisture on commercial flights. The company will then feed the data to the U.S. National Weather Service, thereby giving the organization a more comprehensive picture of what what’s going down (or up) in our atmosphere.

According to, shipping company United Parcel Service has also equipped 25 of its planes with data-collection devices.

Although this instance of “plane-sourcing” takes advantage of only a very small percentage of the country’s daily air traffic, it will be an enormous boon to the Weather Service, whose data-collecting weather balloons are still very limited in scope.

As reports:

“The Weather Service”s weather balloon program takes soundings only twice a day from 69 locations in the continental U.S., according to the agency’s website. The data radioed to the ground can be as much as 12 hours old or hundreds of miles away from where meteorologists need it.”

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: Ben/flickr