Trip to Gaylord NWS Office

Gaylord NWS Office, Doppler Radar in background

This past Friday as part of the S.C.A.M.S. (Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society) club of CMU, I took a trip to the Gaylord National Weather Service Office. Overall the experience was great! We went in a had a quick presentation going over what their duties were and a little information about NOAA as a whole. A few snickers were also shared about the possible Thanksgiving Day mess. The interior was decked out for forecasting. Three or four computer stations with monitors were ready for a forecaster to take position and begin work. Specialized stations for the NOAA Weather Radio and Davis Weather Station were also visible. Don’t believe I directly saw the doppler radar interface, but I imagine it was there somewhere. Very neat.

Instrument shelter with weather balloon facility in background.

We proceeded throughout the building and saw the server racks for data. A lot of it is not needed much anymore considering how far technology has come. After that, we went outside to launch the weather balloon at 7pm.


Weather balloon being inflated with hydrogen in the shelter outside.

I guess I never considered how large the balloons get when up in the upper atmosphere. Apparently they can get up to 100 feet in diameter due to decreasing pressure at high altitude.  Right around that time they burst and the radiosonde falls to Earth. The radiosonde transmits data on the way up. Things like temperature, dew point, wind, and pressure are recorded and transmitted back to the office. A tiny parachute (the orange object) makes sure the fall is relatively safe. On it is a address for return so the unit can be used again.

The launch was cool…for about 5 seconds when it disappeared into the night sky. But it was really exciting because not every NWS office launches a balloon. Also considering it is only launched twice a day, (sometimes more if severe weather is imminent) I thought it was pretty special.

More information about the Gaylord Office can be found here:

I wish I had my hands on a better camera, but am happy with the shots I did manage to take!


About gweatherc
Live in Michigan and enjoy observing the weather. Want to pursue it as a career! Currently taking classes at Central Michigan University.

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