View Full Version : Internet key to hurricane information

09-25-04, 03:22 PM
Last modified Sat., September 25, 2004 - 01:23 AM Originally created Saturday, September 25, 2004

Online weather forecast sites are receiving a millions of hits with storms threatening.

The Times-Union

Consider this: On Sept. 15, as Hurricane Ivan approached Pensacola, the National Hurricane Center's Web site received 180 million hits. Two days earlier, it got 2.6 million hits in five minutes after posting its 11 p.m. update on the storm.

Our eye on the weather has changed as man and technology have evolved. Once we simply walked outside and stared into the sky.

But we progressed, civilized and became organized. We learned to get our weather from the daily paper. Then we became addicted to the Weather Channel. But now, particularly as yet another hurricane approaches the not-so-appropriately named Sunshine State, we cannot wait for the television updates.

We get the straight stuff. We build our days around the four updates from the National Hurricane Center. We study live Doppler radar ourselves. The really serious among us study the various computer models that predict where a hurricane will go, and discuss the relative merits of NOGAPS (Naval Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System) versus BAMM (Beta and Advection Model).

In other words, we follow hurricanes on the Internet.

The National Hurricane Center has averaged 100 million hits a day during this remarkably busy September. Even a private venture, such as Accuweather, for example, averages about 3 million hits a day. But meteorologist Gerald Mohler said the site set a record of more than 10 million hits a day when Ivan approached Pensacola.

There are countless Web sites dedicated to weather. But here's a look at some of them that will help you keep a close eye on Hurricane Jeanne, and the one after that and the one after that and ...

National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov)

The National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center is THE source, of course. Many other sites simply use their data and predictions.

What you can find: With each tropical depression, storm or hurricane there's a basic advisory, probability chart of where it will land and a neat "Discussion" that's actually an explanation by the forecaster of why he or she decided on the track being predicted. But it's the charts -- the three- and five-day maps of where the storm is predicted to go -- that draw most people. They're updated at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Main attraction: It is the definitive word.

Drawbacks: It often doesn't update its charts as quickly as some of the other sites that use the Hurricane Center's predictions. Weather Underground may have the 11 a.m. chart a couple of minutes before 11 a.m., while Hurricane Center itself won't have it until 11:10 or so.

Accuweather (www.accuweather.com)

While most of the Web sites merely use the National Hurricane Center's predictions, Accuweather does its own forecasts. Various media, including the Times-Union, run Accuweather's predications along with the NHC's.

"We tend to be fairly close to their forecast," said meteorologist Gerald Mohler, "because we are looking at the same information."

But sometimes it's different. When the NHC was predicting several days ago that Jeanne would move north in the Atlantic, Accuweather said it would cut across Florida. Actually, the storm did neither, instead turning in circles for a while before moving toward land.

What you'll find: Lots and lots of historical as well as current information, such as position, wind radius and predicted path. The path is updated every six hours until the storm approaches land. Then it's every three.

Main attraction: Lots of data and images, and its own prediction.

Drawback: Some of the graphics are too dark and the radar images aren't as easy to find as they could be.

Weather Underground (www.weatherunderground.com/tropical)

What you'll find: An easy to use site that has all the basic information you'll need -- current tracking, advisories, strike probabilities, projected path and computer models.

Main attraction: The five computer models, often very different, are plotted on one graphic. You can decide if you're pulling for GFDL or UKMET.

Drawback: Its forecast graphic is not as attractive as some others.

Florida State University, Department of Meteorology (www.moe.met.fsu.edu/tcgengifs)

If Weatherunderground's graphic of the five computer models is not enough for you, Professor Bob Hart at FSU has a page that takes a step further.

What you'll find: Click on each computer model and watch Jeanne animate its way through the Southeast. You can even do it stop-action, one click at a time.

Main attraction: All the detail you want from those computer models, with bright graphics.

Drawback: You have officially entered serious weather-geekhood.

Intellicast (www.intellicast.com)

What you'll find: Predicted paths and satellite images of each storm.

Main attraction: Easy and accessible. Attractive graphics on the forecast and it tends to post the track a little earlier than the Hurricane Center.

Drawback: Not as much information as the other sites.

Central Florida Hurricane Center (www.flhurricane.com)

The guys at the Central Florida Hurricane Center make it clear that they are not an official page, that they are simply weather hobbyists. Pretty much everything they have is captured from other sites.

What you'll find: There's plenty of graphics and satellite images. But the Hurricane Center's updates are rewritten so they read a little more clearly.

Main attraction: There's a ton of information, with many links to many sources.

Drawback: There's not a lot of organization. Just keep scrolling and clicking.

Weather Channel (www.weather.com)

The Weather Channel has become the definitive national channel for storms. We all tune in and watch Jim Cantore shout into the wind. (And we hope he never shows up in our town; if he does, it's not a good sign.)

What you'll find: A news story and several maps about each storm.

Main attraction: It's connection to television.

Drawback: Neither particularly compelling or complete.

And here are a few others:


roger.bull@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4296

09-26-04, 02:54 AM
Here's an easy weather thingy for your computer.

Easy to use, etc., etc., and free to boot.

http://ww2.weatherbug.com/download30.asp?zcode=z3720 (http://)