Friday, April 7, 2006

Addicted to Weather

Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by meteorology. For those of you who don't know what meteorology is, it is the science dealing with the earth's atmosphere, in particular its weather. I suppose a lot of my fascination with weather comes from having grown up on a farm in Missouri. Moreso than any other business, farming is reliant on the weather. If there is too little rain in any given summer, the crops can fail. Too much and the same thing can happen. A particularly cold winter can have an adverse effect on livestock, particularly young ones. Of course, Missouri is a state known for its extreme weather conditions. We have particuarly hot, humid summers and the winters can be cold. Tornados and severe thunder storms are par for the course in this state. There is an old saying in Missouri, sometimes attributed to Mark Twain (although he also said it of New England), "If you don't like the weather in Missouri, just wait five minutes. It will change." Since the weather had a huge impact on my life as a child, I guess I have always been drawn to meteorology.

Of course, growing up as a child there were really not that many venues for weather forecasts. If one wanted to know what the weather may be, he or she only had a few choices. He or she could buy a copy of the local paper. He or she could tune into the newscasts on the local TV stations (here in Missouri, at noon, 6 PM and 10 PM). Or he or she could turn on the local radio station and wait for the forecasts in between songs. Things have changed a lot since then. Now one can get weather forecasts from a number of sources.

Chief among these is the Weather Channel. The Weather Channel is a cable channel devoted to just one thing: meteorology and meteorology related news. It was founded in 1982 and has since gone on to become one of the most popular cable channels around. One of the things I love the best about the Weather Channel is that one can get his or her local weather throughout the day. These local weather forecasts air during what they call "the Local on the 8s," so called because they air on the "8s" of the hour (i.e. 10:08, 10:18, 10:28, and so on). With the Weather Channel one doesn't have to wait for one's local forecast on his or her local TV stations or radio stations.

Of course, with the advent of the World Wide Web, one need no longer even wait for "the Local on the 8s." As would be expected, the Weather Channel has its own website. In the United States one need only type in his or her ZIP code to get access to weather forecasts throughout the day. Among other things, it has maps (just one sees on television), seasonal features, and even a weather glossary. Of course, the Weather Channel's web site is not the only weather related web site around. There is also AccuWeather and the National Weather Service's web site. Of course, one need not go to any of these web sites to keep up with the weather on one's computer. WeatherBug is a programme which delivers information about one's local weather straight to his or her computer.

Indeed, one can even get weather forecasts on his or her cell phone or other mobile devices now. WeatherBug, AccuWeather, and the Weather Channel all have mobile versions of their products. It has then been become possible for someone to check on the weather in his or her location literally anywhere. I must admit that I check AccuWeather on my computer regularly.

Access to weather forecasts have changed a lot from when I was a child. One no longer has to wait for the weather forecasts on his or her local TV and radio stations. And one can get weather forecasts in any number of ways--television, radio, the World Wide Web, and the cell phone. For someone addicted to meteorology as I am, things couldn't be better.

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