7.18.2007

Weather Wisdom from a Guest Blogger

One of my colleagues, Jason, is a seasoned road-warrior... much more so than I am as he is constantly criss-crossing the lower 48. Traveling that much, you need to have a good grasp on the weather so you can avoid flight delays and act accordingly when the right storm is in the wrong place and your plane is going to be grounded. Below is a blog entry from Jason on how to keep tabs on weather... much greater insight than I could ever provide on the subject...

Many moons ago I had to fly to Boston for a business trip (where I am now actually…) It was my first trip to the city, and I had many people advising me on what to see (it’s crazy, they never seem to get that on business I see the airport, the highway from the airport to my final destination, and the inside of a classroom – I’m too tired or rushed to do much else.) and what to eat (I never turn down a good food recommendation.)

In addition to the "advice" bestowed upon me, I was under some pressure to perform. At the time, I had to teach a particular software platform (that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with) to people who just joined my company (we bought their firm, and boy is that a story in itself!) In essence, I was their first ambassador from my firm and I was under just a little bit of stress.

I have a great fleece jacket as a souvenir of that trip – specifically because I was so wrapped up in preparing for the business side of the trip, I was on autopilot in my packing. Hey – it was 80+ degrees in Atlanta, surely Boston would have the same beautiful weather! Um, not so much. Boston was overcast and COLD, so after swallowing my pride, I swung by a Burlington Coat Factory (headquartered in a ‘burb of Trenton, New Jersey, not the Burlington of Boston, Massachusetts fame.) and bought my wonderful fleece.

Don’t even get me started on the cost of coats when you buy them "out of season." Trust me; don’t forget to check the weather before you travel. Here are some of my favorite weather sites I visit – some of them are even on the useful site list the Travel Addict has posted in the right column!

From what I understand, the granddaddy of all weather information comes from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Uncle Sam has deep pockets and has the time/resources to launch satellites and sponsor research helping us to "predict" the weather. Basically, everyone receives their weather info from NOAA and repackages it out to other companies. Frankly, this site is a burden to navigate, laden with facts and figures that only a Meteorologist could understand. But it’s fascinating to see what’s going on off the coast of Mexico and info about the latest El Nino. Oh yeah – they can give you your local forecast and weather warnings too. It ain’t pretty, but because of the depth of info here along with the respect that "the source" deserves – I give it an 82 out of 100 – worthy of the serious weather nut.

I have an old boss that happens to be a licensed pilot – he swears by the Aviation Weather Center . It’s an offshoot of NOAA, and although it has some pretty detailed charts of the current weather system, it is moderately useless for business travel planning. For that reason, I give it a 50 out of a 100)

The two big competitors out there are The Weather Channel and AccuWeather and constantly try to one-up each other. Both of them give me 15 days forecast (like I believe anything after 3 days!), hourly forecast, precipitation expectations, weather alerts, weather "news", and radar among other things. I like the interface of AccuWeather and I truly think they are a tad bit more accurate with the weather predictions. The Weather Channel has many many many ads on the site, but they just came out with a radar/Google maps mashup that really works well (try it out, it’s wicked cool!) Locally, The Weather Channel (92 out of 100) now has my vote because I can see a storm cell right above my house, but until they find a way to make the ads less intrusive, I’ll still pick AccuWeather (93 out of 100) for travel updates.

The Weather Underground has a great gimmick that allows the common person to set up weather stations and report conditions on their site. They have found a decent balance between the ads and info, but the site design reminds me of the Geocities era – very clunky. A good site for children…. I give it a 79 out of 100.

Intellicast is your basic site giving you what you need. Some ads to slog through, but I have to tell you, they give a nice snapshot of my local weather and this is the site I visit to check on severe weather – great info, current with a good interface. They get a 89 out of 100 from me.

It’s worth noting that almost every major website has some sort of weather info available. While that works for me on some trips, I really go to "the experts" for my travel planning.

Oh yeah, earlier in the blog the Travel Addict posted several flight tracking websites given. Check out this site from the FAA – it’s updated every 5 minutes, and I can’t understand everything on it, but I do recognize national delay patterns – usually due to weather, or "WX" - when I see them.

Bonus – The Storm Track – who would have thought that weather could be so interesting (or so scandalous?) Run by a couple of guys that really get off on tracking severe weather development – hurricanes, tsunamis and the like. Plus they are tracking the ouster of the head of the National Hurricane Center. And did you know that THE critical weather satellite used to track and predict hurricanes "could fail at any moment" and the government has plans to launch a replacement in 2016. Yup, those last two points are related, read on to find the connection.

Who needs reality TV when I have this to track? Safe travels everyone!

1 comment:

Billie said...

Great job, Guest Blogger! Particularly liked the numerical rating system.