Tuesday, November 19, 2013

About the weather

I'm a weather hound. I got into the weather as a young man watching the afternoon news with Fritz Coleman on NBC. I enjoyed his sense of humor as he explained the weather trends of Los Angeles, but I gotta say, the weather in Los Angeles is boring. Sunny and fair, sunny and fair, sunny and fair for what, 270 days a year? For the rest of the year, it might be in the 90s and that would be a heat wave.

Here in Salt Lake, there is more to the weather. We live in a desert just like SoCal, but we're about 4,000 feet higher in elevation. We get plenty of sun in the summer, averaging 90+ in the summers. In the winter, we get maybe 15-20 inches of snow in a heavy month, with temps dipping as low as 5 degrees with daytime highs in the teens. I've seen temps in one year range from 5 to 105. So yeah, the weather is a lot more interesting here. In Salt Lake, there is a saying, "If you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes". I like that.

Before the internet, the news on radio or tv were my source of weather info. Weather is the only thing I really, really want to see on tv. The rest, I could watch later on Netflix if I wanted to.

Accessing weather information has changed a great deal since the days when tv dominated the mediasphere. I remember traveling on business and noticing that the tv was tuned to the Weather Channel. It was simple then. Graphic and text displays showed the local and national weather maps, current temperatures and a 3-day forecast set to pleasing jazz music with no talking heads. It was like that for a long time, too. Then the Weather Channel started to evolve into a weather news channel - all weather, all the time.

When the internet came along, I found that the national weather service had a website. The Weather Channel had a website. Even local newspapers had a weather forecast online. Our local television station, KUTV, has a website with a weather page. I can even watch the (usually) latest weather forecast video on my computer. That pretty much dashed any need for a cable subscription for me.

I have a smartphone. I've had them since the Palm Treo early in the last decade. I looked for weather apps for my phone then and have one now. My phone has a weather app from Weatherbug. I like Weatherbug because their app works very well compared to the app offered by Weather Channel. But what I really like is that I get forecasts, maps and news, which you can get with Weather Channel's app, too. One thing that the Weather Channel app offers that Weatherbug does not is video forecasts.

In my Chrome browser, I have the Weatherbug app that opens up everything I need to know about the weather at a glance. I can easily get radar maps and an extended forecast if I want it. I've found that although the extended forecast runs for 7 days, it's really only good for 3 days. That's ok. I've seen estimates that the accuracy of the forecast falls by 20% with each day into the future.

I don't run Windows at home, I run Linux. Like Windows, I can run a weather app, too. It's just a little text and graphic message integrated into the status bar at the top of the screen. With all the major computer platforms, Mac, Windows and Linux, you can get weather indicators with detailed forecasts. Weather is everywhere I want to see it now.

Lately, the weather has been kinda boring. Sunny and fair, highs in the 50s, lows in the 30s. When it's like that, I only need to see the status bar on my computer. Not much to worry about even with a little rain in the forecast. But if there is any indication of big snow coming, then I check the app on my phone and if it looks like serious fun, then I watch the forecast from the local news on my computer. I have many sources to get various layers of detail.

Getting weather information has come a long way. Fortunately, networked devices like the computer, my phone and even my TV have made it much easier to get.
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