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The Dullest Most Interesting Subjectno - it's not a hairpiece, just a bad haircut         back to TTN home page
By Joe Harkins - Sep 02, 98

    Mark Twain said, "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Unfortunately, the web address of the site where I finally found the citation for that quote is longer than a Special Prosecutor’s investigation. But here's a live link to it.

    For all the talk about weather, there are not as many original sources on the Internet as you might expect. Gathering data from around the world and constantly updating a web site involves costs that only a relatively few corporations and governments can support.

    A good corporate example is The Weather Channel, the same folks who run the popular cable television channel. The first day I checked their web site it was in self-advertised "severe weather mode." Hurricane season is the Weather Channel's prime-time equivalent of the "O.J." trial. As an on-screen note explained, they had dropped virtually all other graphics from their site in order to deliver up-to-the-minute satellite images and storm-tracking graphics.

    But a far more informative site on that same stormy subject is T-Storm Terry’s Tropical Weather. Like many private web sites based on a personal passion, this one outshines all the well-financed biggies.

    When that particular storm had passed, I returned to Weather Channel and found a site rich in information. So rich, in fact, that some of it was frivolous.

    For example, On The Safe Side, a feature for the classroom, said, "Don't play dodge ball during a thunderstorm . . . " Honestly guys. When was the last time you had to be told to come in out of the rain? On the plus side, the same educational section promises, "200 pages of lesson plans, experiments and hands-on activities that cover the hows, whys and wonders of weather -- from tornadoes to hurricanes, the water cycle to lightning."

    Persons planning on catching or meeting planes are invited by the Weather Channel to monitor delays and arrival times.  Unfortunately, clicking on the icons for Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and each of the three New York airports got me the error message "Sorry, the page you requested does not exist."

    Is that message trying to tell us planes intended for those destinations will be late? Really, really, really late?

    AccuWeather supplies many newspapers, radio and television stations with the "AccuWeather Forecast." The online service delivers the same facts for 55,000 world-wide locations without such tiresome TV weatherman idiocies as, "Well Candy, you really gave us a wet day today. What will you dump on us tomorrow? Heh-heh."

    For other no-nonsense data, visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But for a cheap thrill, open the Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography Center.

    Ignore the misspelled warning: "This is a Department of Defense computer system. This computer system, including all realated eqeuipment, networks and network devices (specifically including Internet access), are provided only for authorized U. S. government use."

    Don’t be intimidated. The information is public, at least in peacetime. For a fascinating look inside the data needed to operate a worldwide fighting force, follow the links into related DoD web pages.

    A most useful weather related web site is the one uniquely built for the web, by web people. Weather Underground is clearly the fastest and best laid out weather web page. Its maps are the cleanest and easiest to understand.

    Weather Affects sells weather "toys." One item is the mini-station, "Weather Report." It tells, at a glance, the last time it rained, how hard and how much, the soil temperature, the Heat Index, the Wind-chill Index and the dewpoint. It can tell you current or average wind speed and direction, outdoor and indoor temperatures, barometric pressure, humidity and record their maximums and minimums.

    You’ll have a fact-laden answer the next time someone asks, "How about this weather, huh?"

-30-

(*note: The material that appears below may or may not have been published in your local newspaper depending on the available space in this week's edition.)

Meteorologists at Study and Play:

Ohio State U Atmospheric Sciences Program

Don't expect to understand too much here unless you've studied meteorology. What little is accessible to the layman adds to respect for those who do this stuff.

Florida State University
This has more weather satellite graphics than the Ohio U site, some of which don't seem  to appear on any of the other sites reviewed here. Still, most of the links are to extensive tables of data that is useful only to serious students.

National Collegiate Weather Forecast Contest
Last year, 700 forecasters, mostly students and faculty members from 29 institutions, competed to show off their training and skills at weather prediction.

Lou's Day
This home page of Lou Dolinar, a fellow journalist who writes for New York Newsday, offers a good demonstration of how you may customize your own web page with local weather information. In this case, the source from which he did a drag-and-drop to his own page is The Weather Underground.


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