Coast Guard News: Reading weather reports

Drill, Baby, Drill




OK, how many “hurry-canes” can we get (60 mph winds and driving rain that last 20 gut-wrenching minutes) before we start paying better attention to the weather? And if you had drilled down a little, maybe there was more information that you could have used to your benefit — and an appreciation of the forecaster.

Weather On The Web

Clearly, the world is awash in web sites that can tell you the weather. Here is just a partial list:

The Weather Channel (www.weather.com)

AccuWeather (www.accuweather.com)

The Weather Bug (www.weatherbug.com)

Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com)

NOAA (www.forecast.weather.gov)

The information providers all have a weather channel — AOL, Yahoo, etc. Each portrays pretty much the same information that you can get by opening the newspaper over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. And you may be surprised to know that they all likely get their weather data from the same source — the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA (www.noaa.gov) is part of the Commerce Department, which says a lot about what government thinks affects business the most. If NOAA’s website has any fault at all, it is how much information you can get from it!

But, as NOAA says, “NOAA’s weather programs touch the lives of every American. Every day, decisions are made based on NOAA weather information — from the mundane ‘should I pack an umbrella today?’ to the most critical and potentially life-saving.” It’s about putting safety first. And that is where safety must be.

So, if all the services get their basic data from NOAA, why don’t you just go there and get the info? An example of what you can get directly from NOAA looks amazingly similar to any of the weather reports you see in the paper or on your internet provider. Maybe we all just should go to NOAA. It is free too!

But the real answer, going back to the intro of this column, is you want to be able to drill down, and not every weather service gives you that ability.

On any given day, you can get a weather report that tells you that the chance of rain is 80 percent. So, if you are planning to do anything outside, you might cancel or move it to another venue. But the 80 percent covers the whole day, i.e., there is an 80-percent chance that it will rain sometime today. When?

On The Weather Channel’s website, as an example, there are two “buttons” of interest. At the upper left corner, it says “Details” and along the bottom it says “Hour-By-Hour.”

Bingo! If you look at the chances of precipitation (just above the graph of temperatures), you can see the chances of rain before 2 PM. How about we get some fishing in this morning!

By the way, if you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at JoinUSCGAux@aol.com or go direct to the D1SR Human Resources department, who are in charge of new members matters, at DSO-HR and we will help you “get in this thing.”