Monday, April 16, 2007
A strong cold front plowed through our community (Venice, FL) yesterday dropping the temperatures over 20 degrees. I was watching the front approach on the Doppler weather radar on the National Weather Service website. It struck me how far this technology has advanced in the last 20 years.
I have always been very interested in meteorology, even as a kid. In 1960, I had a plastic anemometer that I mounted on my parent's garage roof that gave the crudest of readouts of wind speed and direction. Still, the only weather that you could get was from a daily weather map in the newspaper or maybe a radio or tv forecast. Later, I graduated to a Heathkit electronic anemometer that I mounted on a mast on the roof of our first house in Roseville, MN. It was state-of-the-art home weather monitoring. I built the readout unit myself. The display was a compass rose with lights that corresponded to the wind direction and a simple electronic counter that gave the wind speed. It worked beautifully.
That was 1980. Still no easy access to weather maps or current weather data. Fast forward 25 years. Now I no longer need a home weather station (although I still think it would be cool to have one). My 'weather station' is the Web. The number of weather sites and the amount of information I can glean from my laptop is truly staggering.
Just yesterday, I was looking at the Weather Underground site from the University of Michigan. They are taking the home weather station concept full circle. Now if you have a computer-linked weather station, you can upload the data to the Underground. They have a Google Maps mashup that displays where the stations are located and a summary of temperature and wind data for each station on the map. I am inspired! Maybe enough to even consider buying a weather station and linking in.
Despite all this massive data, however, its still hard to know what to expect right in your own backyard. Remember the front I was tracking yesterday? It had a squall line of storms barreling towards us. I thought we were going to get clobbered...but nothing happened. The storms parted and went right around us. A little rain but hardly as much as a thunderclap. My 'storm-chaser' soul was devastated. There is always next time. And who knows, by then I may have a weather station.
(All images from Weather Underground)