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Old 06-20-1999
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Bob Rice is on a distinguished road
Useful Weather Websites

If you want to stay on top of real-time weather conditions around the world's waters, there's a bounty of great sites out thee, begging to be bookmarked. As promised last month, here are those that can be useful, and entertaining as well.

These are largely observational sites, or ones that provide real-time weather information, and are used to evaluate real conditions for any spot or area at that moment. After all, even the best of forecast techniques can't compensate for a bad initial start. Obviously, satellites are the ultimate observational tool-certainly the most expensive. But there is still some old-fashioned, first-hand reporting being utilized. But the eyeball, that primary weather observation tool for many thousands of years, is rapidly being phased out by automated stations.

It could take days, weeks-perhaps a lifetime-to search through and evaluate everything on the Internet regarding weather. The following sites are just a few of the initial ones that I consider of great use, but you'll find many others just by searching through the various links associated with these. Remember that these are just a handful and while I don't intend to slight the many others, these have been good for us. Once you get into them, you'll find them easy to move around in and obtain what you need. If I can do it, anyone can.

Since the satellite is considered the most exotic tool, let's start with that.


    This is an exceptional site from Dundee, Scotland. Though registration is required, it's free. All of the current geo-stationary satellites, providing sectors and full discs, are within this site. This includes the Meteosat, flying over Greenwich, the U.S. Goes 8 over the Atlantic and Goes 10 over the eastern Pacific. The Japanese GMS is parked over the western Pacific, while the Indian satellite resides over the Indian Ocean. In total, these satellites provide complete global coverage. While coverage gets a little obscure beyond about 60 to 70 degrees latitude, it's probably moot because by and large most activity takes place between 60 north and 60 south anyway.


    Most meteorological colleges have Web sites and they can be pretty spectacular. This one is from relatively tiny Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. It's very easy to use and a rather friendly site-and besides, they're a neighbor. It's mainly geared to North America but has some good satellite and surface displays.


    This link gets you the Naval Oceanographic Office. It's fairly bare bones and if you want more detail including an in-depth discussion, look up Jenifer Clark's site for more information.


    This is another neat site that gets you most of the currently deployed tethered buoys of the world. It's an interactive site in which you can not only see the current wind and seas but also the past 24-hour-archived data. This also includes tower-oriented CMAN stations and local Coast Guard reports.


    This, on the other hand, is a site that provides plotted buoy reports for various areas around the world along with a lat/lon and political boundary map. This is the main site from which you can select any of the available regions of the world. You'll be looking for the GIF plots. Once there, bookmark one or more of the more pertinent sites for a specific local area. For instance, the northeastern U.S. sector (Cape Hatteras to Maine) is found at the subsite:


    This one will give you raw ship reports of the eyeball variety. Simply enter the lat/lon center of your search, then define the radius and time of the search, and you get real live reports. Remember, most ship reports come in at six-hour intervals, 00Z, 06Z, 12Z and 18Z.


    This is a professional-level forecast site. It provides a nice presentation of three of the global models. It's a Navy site and the source of many good sites, including the Navy nogaps model. It also includes the short-range, 72-hour, AVN NOAA model and its big brother, the very long range MRF model, but which is limited to 144 hours in this case, the same as the nogaps. Stick with the surface presentations. It's impractical to print, however, because the background is black. Of all the models, I prefer the AVN/MRF.


    This site is a compiled account of all tropical activity and comes out of the National Hurricane Center. It should be noted that NOAA sites tend to be very good.


    For those who care, this site provides good information on ice concentrations in the high latitudes, including Atlantic icebergs.


    This site provides a range of climatological data, as well as sources for other readings. It includes things like El Nino, La Nina, sea surface temperatures, etc.


    Lastly, you might wish to add this one to your toolbox. This is a handy site for converting all sorts of things to other things, including currency, weights, measures, etc.

    There are certainly other higher-octane Web sites. These are largely designed for professional meteorological use and require some background to be used efficiently and, more to the point, safely. If you stumble onto these, use them with caution.

    In addition to the aforementioned sites, be sure to visit SailNet's Weather Center.

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