Originally created 08/16/98

Weather resources found in cyberspace

Long-time readers will recall that I live at the beach on Fire Island in New York, and thus am a weather nut-case in the extreme. When you're out here, after all, one little hurricane can ruin your whole day. High tides may disturb my garden or wash my wife out to sea as she drives to work down the beach. And since I often telecommute, a good weather reporting system enables me to answer the ever-burning question: Will I need to wear a shirt to work tomorrow?

Thinking about, and working with, weather resources is a good exercise in making practical, personal use of the Internet. Instead of being a passive consumer of someone else's weather site, the idea, which you'll see on my home page (http://www.dolinar.com), is to mix and match pieces of information from various sources, then save them on your personal Web page for ready access anywhere.

Rather than go to the main page of a site, then hack your way down to the region that interests you, dig deeply to the relevant information and save its location. As you learn your way around the Net, you may figure out how to do the same thing for other subjects and use your Web pages, as I do, as centrally organized information appliances. Kinda obvious when you think about it, but most newbies don't.

So this week we leave the complicated stuff alone and talk about how to put weather on your home page.

A simple example: I get my weather from the Weather Underground, a commercial service run by a handful of alums of the University of Michigan's excellent weather site. Go to their site, (http://www.wunder ground.com) type in the name of the weather reporting area nearest you (in my case, Islip, there is no Fire Island weather report) and you'll get a weather report. You can enter a city, state, zip code or country.

Save that search as a bookmark/favorite, i.e. save the page it takes you to, and you'll be able to bypass the opening page and typing in Islip, and jump directly to the report you want any time you want updated weather. Experienced folks, bear with me, I realize this sounds elementary, but I've noticed many intelligent people who don't know they can save searches this way. Go one step further -- drag the thing onto your Web page, and you end up with a custom search you can get at from any computer.

Now if you look at my page, you'll see that I've done this one-click number for Islip, my local weather station, and for offshore forecasts in my area. If you're a frequent flier, you might also want to grab pages for the nearest airport, and for your major destination cities. Since we're at the beginning of hurricane season, I'll probably throw in a link to one or more tropical storm watches.

There's other good stuff out there. The Weather Service maintains hundreds of monitoring stations around the country, most of which now feed directly into the Internet.

I've been having problems with tide calculations, which control my fishing, not to mention my winter beach driving. For a while I had a saved search that ran on a university server, but that system is more down than up, and is only useful for resetting my two tide clocks. A couple of weeks ago I switched to the Nautical Software site's (http://www.tides.com) nifty graphical tide calculator.

Take a look and you'll notice that, unfortunately, you can't save searches for this particular site, and you'll have to re-enter your tide-station information every time. There's not much to be done about it -- some sites just work this way, usually because they want you to read advertising on one of the entry screens. If you're really lazy and don't need cool charts, a good alternative is the Newsday tide pages, at http://www.newsday.com/az/tdindex.htm., which does allow you to save searches of particular locations. Come to think of it, our weather page (http://www.newsday.com/weather/web weath.htm) isn't bad either.

My last few entries are weather maps. The nicest I've found are from Intellicast (http://www.intellicast.com), which provides weather to the MSNBC Web site (www.msnbc.com).

This is by no means a definitive list. There's so much stuff out there it's hard to keep up. I have to mention the Weather Channel (www.weather.com), which lets you create your own custom weather page. While you can't customize it as heavily as you can if you roll your own, setting up their page is a lot simpler.

Dolinar can be reached by e-mail at dolinar@newsday.com.