Like Larry the Flying Guy on Facebook!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bringing you what brings the weather

I recently had a chance to visit the National Weather Service office in Cleveland as part of a Northeast Ohio Chapter of the American Meteorological Society event. While the weather happens up above, the people at the NWS are the ones who bring it to you.

Whether you're planning a flight or a picnic, or want to know if you need to go shopping for a new pair of ruby slippers, the forecast you need comes from a two-story building on the west side of the field at Cleveland-Hopkins. The Doppler radar you're used to watching on the TV or on the Internet is right in the parking lot:

The CLE Doppler site. Note the NASA hangar in the background.
This system is what controls it:

Did you ever wonder how that annoying screechy tone and bad weather news gets to your television? Through these stations, that's how:

In the event of severe weather, the staff goes over to one of these units, pushes some buttons indicating what kind and where, and it's on the air.

Close-up of the rack above the monitors. (Click image to embiggen if you want to read the labels.) Still looking for the button that says "Global Thermonuclear War" on it.
I don't think any of these six monitors let you zoom in to see if your long-lost wife is working in the garden, but they do let the forecasters see a bunch of weather data at once:

If that looks like the WKYC Doppler 3 radar image at the upper left, that's because it is. Apparently the radar goes from the dome in the parking lot to Channel 3's office downtown, then gets piped back to the NWS office where it came from in the first place.
One of the more interesting things to happen while I was there took place at this desk:

The windows have a nice view of the airport.

There was a staffer in the chair and I was talking to another one while standing behind it. I mentioned that I keep the TAF site for Cleveland and Mansfield bookmarked on my phone so I can check it easily throughout the day. I asked if this is where they come from and he said, "Sure. Kirk here just put the last one out a few minutes ago."

So I got to meet the guy who writes the crazy TAFs I've written about, and he even spent a while showing me how they get made. I always wondered if they have a mini-model or some sort of local forecasting aid that does most of the work like the continent-wide models do. As it turns out, when it comes to TAFs, it's still plain old looking at the maps and using the brain to figure out what's going to happen—much like a pilot's typical preflight weather planning, but with professional tools. (One of the tools he introduced me to is Bufkit, which is great if you like Skew-T diagrams.)

Many of the places you use as a pilot or as a taxpayer are available to check out. Go see what else is out there for you to explore!

The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with a DHC-8 type rating, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a FAASafety Team representative and Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

It takes hours of work to bring each Keyboard & Rudder post to you. If you've found it useful, please consider making an easy one-time or recurring donation via PayPal in any amount you choose.

No comments:

Post a Comment