Weather Sources: What Is Best For You?

Kathleen Lewis Weather Leave a Comment

In this day and age, weather information is readily available from the local news broadcast to apps on your smartphone. The abundance of weather information can be overwhelming leaving you wondering which source is the best. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of tools as simple or technical as you can imagine. Choosing what’s best for you will depend on your lifestyle but understanding the differences between various weather outlets will help you make a safe and educated decision before venturing out.

Weather information can be broken down into three fundamental components: federal, private sector, and broadcasting. The federal component consists of different governmental agencies that fall under the umbrella of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This includes your local National Weather Service (NWS) on Woodley Island. The NWS is the official voice for issuing warnings for life-threatening weather situations to the general public. The private sector is comprised of companies that provide services for profit. Customers will pay for a specialized forecast tailored to their unique individual needs. While the NWS is focused primarily on public safety, the private sector is focused on helping customers make cost effective decisions with safety in mind. Broadcast meteorology technically falls within the private sector but entails the distribution of weather information through the media. Broadcast meteorologists perhaps have the most profound impact and arguably the most influential role when it comes to weather safety as they provide moment by moment updates during dangerous weather. Despite the differences between these major players, they are all making efforts to provide accessible weather forecasts to the general public.

Will it rain today?

Will it rain today?

Some weather sources are better suited than others depending on what you are doing but there are undeniable strengths and weaknesses to take into account. Most sources will suffice for making day to day decisions like deciding if you need to wear an extra layer outside to whether or not you can do yard work over the weekend. For more critical decisions you will need to dig a little deeper. The NWS website is great for planning ahead from several days to several hours. An advantage over the private industry is that each weather forecast office across the United States is responsible for a small forecast zone. This allows forecasters to become intimately familiar with local phenomena and small scale weather patterns. These details usually get washed out of a forecast by the private companies as they typically forecast much larger regions from a central hub with their finer scale efforts focused on specialized customer forecasts. “But doesn’t everyone else use the NWS forecast?” you may ask. Not necessarily. Other weather sources will utilize free NOAA data to make a forecast including radar imagery, satellite imagery, and model data. They may also relay weather watches, warnings, and advisories issued by the NWS yet their forecast is entirely their own. An area where the private sector excels and the NWS falls behind is the notion of user-friendly forecasts. Frankly, the NWS can’t keep up with the explosion of smartphone technology which seriously limits the accessibility of the forecast. The private industry, however, is keeping pace with this movement making their information easy to find and easy to use to a broader spectrum of users. Fortunately, app developers have taken advantage of the free NOAA data and have created numerous apps purposed to display NWS weather information.

The best weather source for you will depend on what you’re doing and your personal preference. For instance, I will use a little bit of everything to make my weather based decisions. For day to day weather I check an app on my phone but for planning ahead I use the NWS forecast. When I go kayak fishing or surfing I will use the NWS surf forecast as well as several other private sources. I encourage you to use multiple sources for the big and little decisions you make based off of the weather. Ask around and see what your friends and family like to use but remember the Eureka weather office is here to serve northwest California so never hesitate to call when you have a weather question.

Weather tools for your convenience:

Eureka Weather Forecast Office Marine Page: www.wrh.noaa.gov/eka/marine/
National Data Buoy Center: www.ndbc.noaa.gov/
National Hurricane Center for the East Pacific: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/?epac
NOAA Tides and Currents: http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/map/
Ocean Prediction Center: http://www.opc.ncep.noaa.gov/index.php
California Nevada River Forecast Center: www.cnrfc.noaa.gov/
Climate Prediction Center: www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

Kathleen M. Lewis
General Forecaster
NWS Eureka, CA
Ph: (707) 443-6484

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