Wednesday, June 04, 2014

webspotting 34 - graphical forecast

As published in the June 2014 issue of SCOPE, the newsletter of the RASC Toronto Centre. Republished here with permission.


It was 6 years ago, in the April/May 2008 issue of  SCOPE, in my third webspotting article, that I told you about the ADDS web site, part of the suite of US government weather products. To this day, I still use Aviation Digital Data Service satellite visible and infrared looped images to check sky conditions. It is still  incredibly useful. Actually, I noticed they redesigned the web site recently and it is even faster and easier to use.

It was about 1 year ago, I found another and similar tool in the National Weather Service site, in particular,  the Graphical Forecasts "loops." However, this site specifically predicts what might happen; the ADDS shows what just happened.

The Graphical Forecasts link I provide zooms you into Michigan state.

On the left panel, you may select the Forecast Element. Maximum Temperature is displayed by default. I'm usually interested in Sky Cover. In other words, the amount of cloud overhead.

Blue is good; grey is bad.

Low numbers are good; 100 means there's opaque cloud overhead blocking the sky.

The Element Period allows you to choose your preferred 3-hour time slot, starting from now. The digital forecasting tool allows you to go a week into the future!

Below the period menu is the Looping Control. There's a square button in the centre: that's Stop. The first triangle to the right of the Stop: that's Play. Hit the Play button. Now the image area comes to life and you  can watch the simulated clouds build or move away. You can speed-up or slow the animation with the + or - buttons respectively.

Again, this is a predictive tool. You can get a sense of whether it might be clear or not, later today,  tomorrow, a few days from now.

Obviously, this is a crude resource. And clearly Canada is covered in a blanket of permanent snow... But I still take a look. It's quite helpful to me when I'm considering a long drive for possible good skies. Another tool in our tool kit.

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