Ready for rain or shine.
Summer is, at last, upon us and with it the traditional rained-out barbecues and freezing evening drinks parties that are forever England. It's not surprising then, that those of us with Wimbledon tickets and a wetsuit should want to keep a keen eye on the weather. The Meteorological Office's site http://www.meto.gov.uk/ is a great place to start. Easy-on-the-eye, it produces daily weather reports via symbol charts, pressure diagrams and satellite photos, plus information on how the Met Office actually goes about its forecasting.
It's always nice to see old friends and TV's regular weather presenters are on-line at the BBC Weather Centre http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/ It provides daily forecasts and a useful two-day planner, but its strength is in the newscasters' articles on the serious business of the weather. Discover what causes avalanches, go behind the scenes on rain-drenched TV shoots and learn about epicondylitis, the weathercaster's crippling affliction caused by repeated arm movements in front of their charts.
For up-to-the-minute forecasts, the PA Press Centre http://www.pa.press.net/weath er/main.html has a planner service that will send fax and telephone updates for the next ten days. There is also a media centre and business planner for planning activities to upcoming forecasts. Try downloading Weather Watch, a free application which sits on your desktop and gives regularly updated weather information for the UK via a clickable map.
A more unpleasant, invisible part of our environment is pollution. Acid rain, UV-heavy sunlight and global warming all results from using the monster in your garage. Keep track of the damage we do and the rubbish we breathe at Air Quality Management Index http://www.ifi.co.uk/aqmmap.htm/ As well as a map, the index gives valuable links to information about pollutants, archived statistics and facts about what the government is doing about the problem.
It is not surprising to find that the UK is not the only country obsessed with weather. The US-based Weather Channel http://www.weather.com/twc/h omepage.twc covers the US by state, city and activity, such as `boating and beach' or `gardening'. You'll also find solid worldwide coverage and constantly updated satellite maps of the other continents. Features on health-conscious travel for those with allergies and in-depth city guides are also useful. Check out what the weather looks like when turned through 360 degrees. You will need to download the free Ipix viewer to get this effect, but this month's examples of storm damage are chilling enough to make it worth it.
If you're looking for a more highbrow study, The World Meteorological Organization http://www.wmo.ch/ is on line at its Swiss headquarters. You'll find more reports and studies, press releases, links and the usual forecasts and satellite pictures. The shadow of extreme weather is again present, with a compendium of features about the movement and effects of the recent El Nino and La Nina storms.
Tropical Storms Worldwide http://www.solar.ifa.hawaii.edu/ Tropical/tropical.html is far from graphically interesting but offers up-to-date tracking of extreme conditions, such as tornados and hurricanes across the globe -- I assume so you can get out of the way. Others prefer to keep an eye on things themselves. The Weather Underground of Hong Kong http://www.weather.org.hk/ is a government-run project to watch for the potentially lethal activities of storms in this most unstable of areas.
There is a group, however, who, for reasons best known to themselves, use these services to find rather than avoid these storms. Storm-chasers are a bunch of photographers, meteorologists and plain old adrenaline freaks who follow and attempt to record storms as they reek their trails of destruction. Allegedly, the UK has the highest frequency of reported tornados per unit area in the world and is where the supercell thunderstorm structure was discovered (see `Back To Basics' on page 80 for more tornado facts). Find out about UK storm chasing at TORRO (Tornado and Storm Research Organisation) site http://www.torro.org.uk/
Few would disagree though, that the home for this bizarre, dangerous activity is the US. For photographs and anecdotes, check out The Young and Future Storm Chasers http://www.angelfire.com/ca/To rnado/index.html No thank you. Not my cup of tea at all.
To find where current storms are raging, try Central Atlantic Storm Investigators http://www.weatherwatchers.org/ offering information about storm activity worldwide. People who want to take their life in their hands and meet like-minded others, should visit Storm Track magazine http://www.storm-track.com/ An enormous site, it gives details of other chasers, upcoming events and storms, articles and merchandise. And to think we complain about a drop of rain.
You can contact Chris Martin at: firstname.lastname@example.org