Weather Forecasting – Observations

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 16,683
    Chris Strong with the National Weather Service explains how you can take observations, what’s going on right where you are right now, in order to forecast the weather on your own.

    Chris Strong: Hi! I am Christ Strong with the National Weather Service. I am talking to you today about how you can forecast the weather.

    The first thing we need to do in order to forecast the weather is to take observations, what's going on right where we are right now.

    In order to do that, we can look at a number of different things. First of all, you can just look up at the sky. See where the clouds are? How thick they are? Whether or not, they are high up in the atmosphere or low down to the ground? Whether or not there is fog around? How these clouds are moving within the atmosphere, can tell you a lot about where your weather is coming from.

    Getting down to actual observations from your house, you can either buy a simple weather station, fairly inexpensive weather station for your house or you can take observations from other locations. They are taking observations and then broadcasting it over the Internet. So, either from your house from your location or from a nearby location, you can tell a lot of different things.

    You can tell what the temperatures is, which is obviously tell you how hot or cold it is. Whether or not temperature has been increasing or decreasing. Also, we can learn a little bit about what the humidity is? How much moisture there is in the atmosphere?

    Then there is winds, winds can certainly tell us quite a bit about what's going on because the direction the wind is coming from is obviously going to be drawing down weather from other locations around us.

    So, if we have a strong north wind, obviously we are bringing down conditions from places that are north of us, which are generally colder than us. So, north winds tend to bring colder weather.

    If we have south winds on the other hand, we tend to be drawing up from tropical locations or subtropical locations which are fairly warm. So, just having a south wind is going to be gradually warming us up over a period of time.

    The stronger the winds are, obviously the closer we are going to be to strong storm systems or the more that the weather is likely to be changing.

    Once around the Internet enable to glean a whole bunch of information that's available to us online. We are able to look at things like satellites. Satellites are constantly looking down at the planet from above the Earth's atmosphere and they are constantly telling us where the clouds are, where the storm systems are, how they are moving.

    Anybody that has ever tracked a hurricane, satellites are obviously key for looking where that hurricane is and how it's tracking across the planet. That works just as well for regular storm systems in the summer and the spring and the winter and fall. It can also tell you what areas of clouds are moving that might not necessarily be storm systems, but just bring a damper on our sunshine.

    Getting down to radar; which is another product that's available online. Radars are constantly looking at the atmosphere around us from a particular point. We have one right here at the forecast office, and there're radars all across the country, all across the planet for that matter. Each one of these radars is constantly looking around the 360, more it is and looking for precipitation is around the radar system.

    So, once we get a radar picture, we can see exactly where rain is, where snow is, where thunderstorms are? We can look at a radar loop and we can see how exactly thunderstorms and rain and snowfall are moving and evolving around us.

    We can see if they are moving-in, moving-out, whether or not, there's a chance of a strong thunderstorm coming and affecting our area. Even large-scale systems like big water storms or hurricanes where you can actually see those with radar and see the rainfall or snow that are associated with those systems and see how they are moving towards us.

    From the vast amount of information that's available online. You can access radar, satellite information or observations from other places around your location right at National Weather Service website, weather.

    gov or at various private weather industry websites, which are available online.

    Simply doing an Internet search for weather observations will get you a whole host of information that you can have right at your fingertips.

    We also have upper air balloons here at the forecast office, which are constantly looking at not what's just going on right here at the surface level, but obviously since weather is coming out on us from above, we need to see what the temperature, winds, humidity and pressure are, all the way up through the atmosphere.

    So, just by taking a simple balloon filled with helium and tying a weather package to it, we can measure exactly what the temperature, winds and humidity are all the way up through the entire weather producing segment in the atmosphere. And that gives us critical information for forecasters and forecasters at home as well, as to where exactly the humid, cloudy, pockets the atmospheres are? Where dry areas are, hot cold? Just like on the surface, it can tell you exactly where things are around you and how they are moving towards us. That's the first step in order to forecast the weather. Having a good idea is to what we're getting right now.