Best weather resources?
August 28, 2009 11:10 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to get the most accurate information on the weather around the web? I have this page bookmarked but I don't really understand it as well as I think I could.

I live in Boston if it matters (yes I know, if you don't like the weather just wait a minute), and I generally like to know what the weather's going to be for the next 5 days or so. Right now I'm a weather checker, but there has to be a better way.
posted by pwally to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One of my friends is a nationally known meteorologist and he told me once that all local forecasts are ultimately sourced from one site: For what it's worth, he has told me that they are the official weather organization and that there is really no reason to go anywhere else.
posted by crapples at 11:16 AM on August 28, 2009

I've been using Weather Underground for a long time now (here's Boston, looks like rain). They give you plenty for free, but for $10 a year they strip out the ads, give you longer radar animations and ad-free forcasts and alerts via email.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:25 AM on August 28, 2009

Here is the lite version of Weather Underground. Much easier on the eyes.
posted by COD at 11:31 AM on August 28, 2009

One really cool thing about is the Forecast Discussion (here it is for BOX, which is the Boston area). You have a real live meteorologist discussion why certain forecasts were made and how things might change.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:46 AM on August 28, 2009

The NWS does a fantastic job with forecasts, in part because mariners depend on them so much. Boston's NWS page is here. If you go now there is a link in red just below the "Detailed 7-day Forecast" which is where you will see alerts when they issue them. Short term forecast is just a head's up, basically. I went into some detail on the other warnings here:

"You'll see the warnings, advisories, and watches in red. Warnings mean they are 50% confident the thing they are warning about will happen in the next 1 to 2 days. When that percentage increases they issue advisories, and if a significant threat to life and property exists, they'll instead issue a warning."

The image/link to the local radar is handy for telling when rain is coming. Stuff seems to come across CT in about two or three hours to get to RI, probably another hour or two to Boston. To get an idea beyond that look to the national radar here, or scroll down on the local one. The Northeast box is less detailed than the local radar but still tells us a little of what to expect, and if you use the loop you can use the times to tell when things will hit. Looks like rain in a few hours. Darn.

Beyond those, there is a completely fascinating section back on the main Boston page under the "Forecast Discussion". That's where you'll see what is happening behind the scenes and how much guess work is involved. They trust different models in different situations so don't get dependent on one over the others much, FYI.

Beyond that, try the flood stage data from USGS. Here's the Charles in Waltham. NWS will usually issue flood warnings in spring and say which rivers are in danger and at what height flooding occurs. You can then go to the USGS chart (bottom of page) and see how bad things are, how long, etc. Just remember there are probably dams up stream that can affect things after the rain has stopped.

If I've learned one thing with this it's that the folks in Taunton are more balanced than the TV/newspaper crews. In RI they freak out about every storm that comes through, often ranking them as "Run to the grocery store" or not. Taunton will calmly state snow fall estimates and occasionally tell you not to go out of the house. You can see that back on my first link to the San Francisco question last year. The only problem is when I try to do my weekly grocery trip when thousands of others in "OMG" mode buying bread and milk for the coming apocalypse. Small nuisance overall though.
posted by jwells at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

In my experience Wunderground is not that great. Some places have really good local weather people at their local TV stations, people who actually predict the weather, and some places just have weather people who repeat the NWS forecasts. If you have good weather people at your local TV station, their webpage is the first place to look.

Right now, I am in a place where the weather people are just repeating the forecast from NWS, so I use combination of sites to get an idea of the weather.

First is the national radar animation, so I can see what's coming my way.

Second is to look at this page so I know what is actually going on in the national radar animation.

Third is to put your city and state into the little box at the top of the national radar page, which gives you a detailed local forecast for the next seven days.
posted by 517 at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2009

Accurate weather is an oxymoron. It's still not possible to get it right for every location. Here on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, temps and weather can be different for every mile you get away from the ocean.

That being said, I like Weather Underground because it's quick and easy to read, gives me access to local radar, and allows me to save multiple locations for fast reference. If I have time I enjoy reading the scientific discussions although the meteo-short hand is a little cryptic to decipher. There is an iphone version as well.

Oh, and it's $5/year not $10.
posted by birdwatcher at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2009

I like Weather Underground, mainly because they have a "Storm Track" option that visually gives you some indication of the direction and speed of storms. I've found it to be pretty accurate in my area.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:58 PM on August 28, 2009

I use AccuWeather, in part because I like the interface, but mainly because it's the provider linked to by ForecastFox. (I like the simplicity of having 4 icons in my status bar.) I don't flatter myself that I've found the "best" weather, because whatever they do to massage things, it all does source back to the NWS.

Since you say it matters to you, AccuWeather does include the pretty-standard 5-day forecast (expandable to 15 days) and you can have your local link on your status bar.
posted by dhartung at 9:21 PM on August 28, 2009

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