June begins the Atlantic hurricane season, and with it, a need for up-to-date weather information for the next several months.
While local television weather is a good and valuable source, real-time weather that is often equivalent or better is available through through the Internet. A savvy Web weather user can access nearly all the same data used by local meteorologists to access the latest weather information.
A good starting point is the office of the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.gov. The Coral Gables-based NOAA office remains the central source for hurricane information. From this site you can access the latest reports, forecasts, discussions and tracking data as issued by the National Hurricane Center.
The NHC has also begun a pilot program that will send e-mails with the latest reports to a designated mail address. However, the program has also asked that subscribers sign up for the minimum number of reports possible in an attempt to not crash NOAA's mail servers.
The NHC has also begun offering weather information that can be accessed through cell phones – links are available through the NHC home page, and include advisories, graphics and satellite images.
More sophisticated weather users will want to visit the Weather Underground site at www.wunderground.com. Wunderground is generally the most detailed weather site available online.
Both hurricane and storm tracking information are prominently featured at Wunderground. Click on the Tropical/Hurricane link and you can access hurricane data for locations worldwide.
When a storm becomes active, Wunderground provides nearly all the data available through various weather sources in one package.
Among the features offered are tracking forecast models from several computer models, detailed dropsonde information from “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft, a variety of satellite and radar imagery, and nearly all the information available to meteorologists.
Wunderground's radar data is especially useful not only for hurricanes, but severe storms in general. Bring up the radar image for a given area, and Wunderground allows users to add storm forecast tracking information, lightning data, rainfall totals, multiple radar images with detailed zooming capabilities, and tornado vortex signature data. The radar data can also be tuned to provide information on hail likelihood, hail size, wind speeds and storm cloud heights.
The best Web site for keeping current with Weather alerts remains the NWS Weatherbug (www.weatherbug.com). Weatherbug features a program that is loaded into the PC system tray after downloading and installation. From their the latest forecast can be brought up on an instant basis, as well as radar images and travel weather. Weatherbug can be set up to alert users to weather warnings much like a dedicated weather radio.
Another useful Web site for weather information is www.accuweather.com. Accuweather is one of the television industry's leading weather suppliers, and its Web site features easy to read graphics and information. Of particular note is a 15-day forecast for any given location.
Finally, the Weather Channel (www.weather.com) also provides detailed weather information, including hour-by-hour daily forecast information.
Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant working with businesses and individuals on high-tech needs. Another Day In Cyberville is published weekly in print and online via The Gainesville Voice, a weekly publication of The New York Times Regional Newspaper Group. You can reach Tom Meek at firstname.lastname@example.org.