Most gardeners don’t start out as weather geeks, but I think most end up that way. The fate of one’s plants is just too tied up with the weather. Garden chores will be different depending on the weather. And while golfers and swimmers rejoice at yet another hot, sunny day, we gardeners know another sunny day is a dreadful forecast: WE NEED RAIN!! (You blithering idiots!)
Recently, Robin the Bumblebee was discussing weather instruments. I can easily understand someone spending over a thousand dollars on weather instruments. And unlike Robin, recording “precipitation, temperature, wind direction, humidity, air pressure and such” doesn’t sound like “geekery beyond what I can support or even humor.” No, it’s more like the ideal I will probably never achieve. Shoot, I can’t even remember to empty the rain gauge between storms. But that’s what you get for your thousand bucks: a computer hookup to feed all the data to your hard drive, allowing you to create spreadsheets and graphs to your heart’s content, and a rain gauge that empties itself. (Heh. And none of it works after the power goes out.)
A Good Weather Website
I love what you can learn from several years’ worth of records, and I am also painfully aware that weather is very local. How many times has the “official” weather station on the other side of the county recorded precipitation that I never saw a drop of? How many times have I had frost when they did not? That’s why I like the Weather Underground website. After you type in your zip code, the (meteorological) world is at your fingertips. You’ve got the local radar right in front of you, and you can animate it, so you can actually see the rain skirt around your garden on its way east. (The animation is not in real time, but it’s updated quite frequently.)
There’s a History and Almanac section that keeps track of all the weather records for your area, where I just learned we are .39″ ahead of normal precipitation for the year, but 5.12″ behind what we had gotten last year by this time. (We had gone through quite a dry spell, but in the past week and a half have apparently made it up. Thank God.) There’s an astronomy section that tells you the times for sunrise and sunset, and how many minutes of daylight less you will have tomorrow (sigh), as well as the moon phase.
But my favorite part is the Personal Weather Stations section. I may not own a fancy weather station, but I can take advantage of everyone else’s. Since my zip code more accurately reflects the location of the post office that delivers my mail than my true physical location, these personal weather stations provide data for truly local weather conditions. You can even see their locations on a map, and determine which is closest to you. The data includes the dew point temperature, which, as readers of A Gardener’s Guide to Frostknow, can be critical for determining if it will frost on some questionable autumn night. You can view historical data here as well, and even download it in a comma-delimited file, which can be imported into a spreadsheet. I just noticed that you can put a weather sticker for any of these stations on your website, so if, like me, the “official” weather for your zip code doesn’t always bear much resemblance to reality, you can have the real deal displayed instead.
I’m always discovering something new on this website. Why, just today I learned there were two earthquakes on Monday, just 90 miles from me.
Weather for Your Browser
Users of Firefox should know there are several addons (aka extensions) that will put the local conditions and forecast even closer to hand, right on those horizontal menu/tool/taskbars. I use Forecastfox Enhanced, but there are others to choose from. Go to the Firefox Extension site and search on “weather.”
How about you? Do like to record weather data? What weather website has the most accurate forecasts?