The User-Friendly Aspects of Meteorology

My recent visit to Estonia reminded me to take a look at the forecasts there (well, not there, if we are precise for they are Finnish forecasts which nevertheless display the area I’m interested in).

To put it mildly, I had forgotten how good something as necessary as a rainfall forecast can be — the best that the UK’s public sector can offer us should be the MetOffice rainfall forecast (link) which, while certainly usable, is more likely to be a nightmare to any person who would dare look at it and predict something. Even the most in-depth look (say, choose the East of England and play the file) shows you blots which sometimes turn into lines and sometimes not. At three-hour intervals. There might be a better option around there, but if there is anything more comprehensive I have been unable to find it.

Needless to say, a three-hour interval measure at that distance (I can place Norwich and Great Yarmouth to that map, but I wouldn’t even want to make a guess at where I can find Cambridge) is not the best concept one could think of.

Which made me think of the add-on (or rather, a past add-on and now private company) to the UEA, Weatherquest, to see if it had anything better or not. Surprisingly, they have made a better quality (but even worse resolution) map of the UK (link) which is a bit more fade-in, fade-out than the MetOffice one but otherwise still rather hard to use. Oh, sure, you can get the weather at Norwich there (still the three-hour issue), especially given that it is somehow easier to find Norwich on that map than on the other one, but I still wouldn’t bet a more than a few pounds on getting Cambridge to Cambridgeshire without another map. In case you missed it, clicking on the map does increase the size.

All in all, I would say that of the two here, the Weatherquest one is far more effective.

Now, let’s take a look at the Finnish one I mentioned in the beginning of the post. I have no idea what their meteorological service is called and I have always used one of their newspapers for the purpose anyways, so here is the Iltasanomat’s rainfall forecast (link). It displays the past eight hours that are based on accurate data, and then forecasts for the next eight hours (one-hour intervals). The area is roughly the same as England and Wales together, and likely some of Scotland as well (there is a separate map for Central and Northern Finland, as well as one for the capital region). Altogether, the area they service is about a third larger than the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, at the present they don’t seem to have any rain falling in the south but the northern maps (click around on the blue bar with words Keski-Suomi and Pohjois-Suomi if the language puzzles you) show you the manner of forecasts as well.

They also have a most interesting though rather useless map for the world. Needless to say, it is somewhat fun to watch though they have gone to three-hour intervals (I believe, for two reasons: the cost of hourly upkeep as well as the scale of movement would be rather hard to notice).

Now, you might say that the loss of any post-eight hour information is a loss, but I would disagree. I am not the most confident in the accuracy of the UK ones, and I would also rather know what happens in an hour not in a day, at least when we speak of the weather.

So yes, meteorology’s social aspect (which none of us really like but which is an inevitable part of it while being rather an indifferent one to oceanography except for the odd fisherman who wants to know wave height) seems to be lacking. Can we perhaps improve upon it?..

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  1. Thanks for the graph; it is quite instructive if not entirely correct (for example, waterspouts are known to take place in not just tropical waters but also in colder ones). Then again, few things are, and it does what it is supposed to quite well. 🙂


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