Hackin’ The Net

  • Parent Category: News
  • Published: Thursday, 13 November 2014 17:28
  • Written by Ted Fleischaker

rainbow-pc

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it..." A quote always attributed to Mark Twain, though according to www.quoteinvestigator.com it might have actually been written by a little-known editor at The Hartford Courant named Charles Dudley Warner. But regardless, its a well-known saying and gives me an opening to ask: where and how do you get your weather info? And do you trust the places you go? Really?

With a computer, tablet or smartphone, these days there are not a few, not a hundred, but literally thousands of places to turn for the local temperature, forecast and data.

So where to go and why?

Well, for this weather-holic writer the first place I always turn is the national or government weather office in whatever country or territory where I am seeking the weather. I know this can be a bit tougher than just using my iPhones built in weather app (which I "stored” in some folder, can’t find and don’t miss) or WeatherBug or any of the others people wave at me if I dare ask the temperature, but why go elsewhere when in most (not all, but a lot) of cases, the forecast and temperatures are actually from the government employee working for the National Weather Service, Environment Canada, Britain’s Met Office or any of the myriad of other national forecasters? In other words, who wants or needs 2nd or 3rd hand info that may or may not be as reliable as what comes from the person who really knows his or her local climate?

So now that we have told you this little gem, how to find the forecast for Zurich, Switzerland, Hamilton, Bermuda, or Ogunquit, Maine?

Well, grab a pen (or open notes on your tablet or computer) and we will share some links. The best way is to use your browser of choice and point it to http://www.wmo.int/pages/members/members_en.html If that’s too much to type just go to www.wmo.int then from the menu bar on the left click on members, then national services.

However you arrive there, this is the full membership roster of the World Meteorological Association (WMO). I looked down the list and found almost every country listed, and over 90% of the listings are accompanied by live links, so just click and you’ll be transported by your browser to local weather services from literally almost even' nation on the globe.

Do keep in mind there are some limitations, including language. If you cannot speak some of the languages you will be challenged, but most of the sites seem to have maps and illustrations (think cloud sketches, suns and black clouds with lightning bolts for storms) so whether or not you have a talent for the local tongue, you should be able to navigate and get a forecast fairly easily.

Also the WMO’s "official” languages are English & French (same as the UN) so a lot of the sites do offer some interpretation or an easy way to get the info you are after. If you are travelling, keeping the WMO’s URL in your browser memory on the laptop, tablet or phone is a pretty great way to link to local forecasts, written by local meteorologists. It can also be a fun way to just see what’s going on somewhere and if there’s weather in the news (think hurricane, ice storm, flood or blizzard) there’s nothing like peeking at the local weather office’s remarks and forecasts. I find that often I get a lot more realistic picture than I can on any of the national news channels.

But what about here — the U.S.A — home? Well for the U.S. forecasts I like the National Weather Service. Why them? Well, first we taxpayers do pay for the service, so why not use what we buy? But in terms of total information, accuracy and immediate updates, nothing (and I mean nothing) can beat the National Weather Service. Their home page is www.weather.gov and there’s a clickable map where you can link to local forecasts or radar for any area. I keep a permanent bookmark at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ind/ which is the Indianapolis home page, as well as one for the Indianapolis radar, but with directional arrows on the home page I can easily navigate to the weather offices for nearby cities or return to the main map and look at the hourly temperatures and more for anywhere.

There are also a lot of specialist pages, some of which might be of interest. My two favorites are the Climate Prediction Centers home page at http:// www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/ forecasts/ and a link on the left menu bar from the main Indianapolis page and each city has this so it’s not just here) called the “forecast discussion.”

The former links to a set of long-range forecasts they update about 3 p.m. daily. That’s where you can see maps and read (sometimes quite technical, so the maps are best) discussions of what the national climate folks think is gonna happen in the next two weeks. There is also a spot in the text link which says how accurate the forecaster thinks he will be that day for the long range and why. On a recent day it read: “FORECAST CONFIDENCE FOR THE 8-14 DAY PERIOD IS: ABOUT AVERAGE, 3 OUT OF 5, DUE TO FAIRLY GOOD AGREEMENT AMONG THE ENSEMBLE MEAN SOLUTIONS AND SURFACE FORECAST TOOLS." That tells me the person writing it is sorta sure he or she’s got it right, but not as much as if it were a “5”. I have seen everything from a “1” to “5" and as one might suspect the reasons van; but it's fun to get an insight into what they are thinking, then remembering to see if they got it right, wrong or in between.

The same is true of the local forecast discussion, which sometimes can be quite technical, such as this explanation of a recent day when the easy forecast was "mostly sunny with a high in the upper 70s”:

“ISSUED AT 941 AM EDT FRI AUG 15 2014. SURFACE ANALYSIS THIS MORNING SHOWS HIGH PRESSURE IN PLACE OVER INDIANA...WITH CLEAR SKIES IN PLACE ACROSS MUCH OF THE STATE. WATER VAPOR IMAGERY SHOWS QUICK NW IN PLACE ALOFT AND A FEW HIGH CLOUDS WERE FOUND ACROSS SW INDIANA WITHIN THIS FLOW. FORECAST SOUNDINGS REMAIN QUITE DRY AND CONVECTIVE TEMPS APPEAR UNREACHABLE. THUS WE WILL LOOK FOR MOSTLY SUNNY SKIES TODAY. GIVEN OUR 850MB TEMPS ONGOING TEMP FORECAST LOOKS ON THE MARK. OVERALL...ONGOING FORECAST HANDLES THIS WELL."

Did you get all that? If not the page before has not only a simple worded forecast but our very own version of those picture forecasts (above) making the info as easy or technical as you’d like.

As far as others offering forecasts, WeatherBug is mv next fave after the National Weather Service as I do like their local, local, local approach. Just don’t take all the numbers as gospel as while they can use my iPhone’s GPS to see where I am and give me the closest station to that spot, too often it’s a thermometer at a school or non-official location, so the reading may or may not be very accurate. I do love the app’s links to weather cameras and find its fun not only for seeing current weather, but views of cities, towns and attractions I have been to or plan to visit.

 

Have a great Fall, check out all the weather sites and pick your faves before the snow flies. Find the one(s) you like and set them up with alerts if you wish on vour phone, pad and computer to be ready, because as sure as September is here, we’ll be looking for snow forecasts before too long, not to mention severe weather can happen at any time.