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Coppa del Mondo 2024 di Sci Alpino

About Internet...

Meteorology is one of the subjects that most interests net surfers if we consider the incredible number of new sites that continuously appear

Article by
Paolo Ciraci

Published by nautica
436-August 1998

Translated from italian version: Nozioni di meteorologia


The enormous quantity of data and their easy accessibility to millions of users are some of the factors that turned Internet into a very powerful alternative means of social and cultural promotion. As a matter of fact, by using the web as a working instrument, we end up approaching unknown subjects that are not directly linked to our activity. We learn and read about fields that have always fascinated us but that, for several reasons, mainly lack of time, we could never go into thoroughly.

Meteorology is one of the subjects that most interests net surfers if we consider the incredible number of new sites that continuously appear: data, maps, charts and satellite images as well as a wide range of scientific and general notions. Whoever wants to learn the complex meteorological phenomena and examine closely the techniques needed for weather forecast or simply wants to understand the meaning of weather charts, finds a wide range of data on the Web. The WW2010 (Weather World 2010) web page, created by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences (DAS) of the Illinois University of Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), are very interesting and have been at the forefront of weather information via the Internet. This ambitious project is a WWW framework for integrating current and archived weather data with multimedia instructional resources using new and innovative technologies. Even though the UIUC project is marked by vanguard research techniques, a wide range of users uses it. As a matter of fact, products such as "The Weather Machine", born in January 1993 with a Gopher server, the "CoVis" (Collaborative Visualization Project), the "Daily Planet" of 1994, the first HTML site and the most recent "Weather Visualizer" are renowned. In addition, there is the "Online Guide to Meteorology", an innovative online weather course, which uses the data processed by the different servers of the Universities in its examples. The WW2010 was created from the integration of this online course with all the above-mentioned products.

The site has a quite traditional appearance with the screen divided into two parts: a smaller one on the left side of the screen with the menus listed in a very clear way and the rest of the screen is empty. Given the continuous use of graphics, users with slow connection systems have the possibility of choosing the "text" abridged version. There are several sites offering both versions (graphics and text), yet the two versions hardly include the same contents, as is the case of the UIUC versions. In the case of the UIUC, this was possible thanks to a refined use of Java and Java script combined with "server cookies".

Let's consider the contents of the "online guide" which is the main subject of this article. The Online Guide menu includes three sections: a) meteorology: basics and advanced scientific notions, b) remote sensing: radar and meteorological satellites c) reading and interpreting weather maps.

The first section includes the following: a1) light and optics: the interaction between light and atmospheric particles and the colorful optical effects that result, a2) clouds and precipitation: cloud classification and the processes by which clouds and precipitation develop, a3) forces and winds: forces that influence the flow of air and how they interact to produce wind; a4) air masses and fronts: the most common types of air masses and fronts, a5) weather forecasting: general forecasting methods and forecasting tips for different scenarios, a6) severe storms: survey on the different types of thunderstorms, their associated components plus an in-depth look at tornadoes, a7) hurricanes: the anatomy of hurricanes, how they develop and why they are so dangerous a8) El Niño: why El Niño develops and the global impact it has on weather patterns, a9) hydrological cycle: the circulation and conservation of the earth's water. The second section includes the following: b1) the basics of radars and target detection, interpreting radar imagery and exploring their applications in forecasting and severe weather prediction, b2) satellites: GOES and POES satellites, the images they produce and how to interpret them. Finally, the third section includes: c1) coordinated universal time: Learn to convert your local time to the standard used by all meteorologists, c2) temperatures: See how temperatures measured in Kelvin, Celsius and Farernheit are related, c3) surface observations: learn how to read maps containing weather information for the surface, c4)upper air observations.

All above-mentioned topics are linked as hypertexts and to the research motor "helper" which works as a terminology glossary. This site is really worth a look, even just to appreciate its technical approach.

USA Today, the popular American newspaper has a Web site with a very good weather section which includes "How the weather works", a vast collection of fully integrated documents on the main atmospherical and meteorological phenomena. Even though its readers are not experts in the field, published data are of considerably high quality. All concepts, even the most complex ones, are easily explained and exemplified, some even include animated images. Naturally, the Internet also includes detailed glossaries of meteorological terms such as: "Weather Post" in the meteorological section of the Washington Post daily newspaper web site, "The Weather Channel Glossary" on the web site by the TV Weather Channel, "In terms of Weather" of Environment Canada, the governmental agency in charge of the protection of the environment. In addition to our scientific and instructional articles, all links of the above-mentioned web sites may be found in the wide meteorological section of Nautica Magazine.

Paolo Ciraci Il Cybernauta
Salone Nautico di Genova