New View on the Weather

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Taking great pleasure in outdoor activities, it has always been important for me to have accurate weather predictions available. Although localized weather forecasts on the web or from apps are very good nowadays, it turns out that some qualitative insight greatly improves understanding the general weather situation.

Having enjoyed it a lot, this post is a recommendation for the book "Do-it-yourself Wettervorhersage" (currently in German only) from Urs Neu.

Do-it-yourself Wettervorhersage

It has been a while since the somewhat hidden Meteomedia (part of MeteoGroup) forecasts for the next 4 days for a wide range of weather stations around Europe have been suggested to me. Instantly I was impressed by the granularity of the prediction, especially the distribution of sunshine and precipitation through the day. And indeed these predictions have been of great value on many instances in the past. In 2014 for example we were planning a 4 day hiking trip and TV and Radio predicted a lot of rain for the first two days. With the detailed rain prediction of Meteomedia we convinced ourselves that the amount of rain was tolerable with the right clothing. So it was only due to Meteomedia that we started on what turned out to be one the most memorable hiking trip of the year.

To understand what I am talking about, it is probably best to look at the current prediction for any weather station, for example Wetterstation Ulm-Mähringen. With such reliable information, I have been using little if nothing else in the past years. From time to time however I felt that it would be interesting to have a deeper understanding of the processes governing our weather. On the one hand it seemed interesting in its own right and on the other hand I always wondered if and how the raw information required for such a task would be available in today's internet.

With these background thoughts simmering for some time, it was a quick decision from reading the "Do-it-yourself Wettervorhersage" review in the Panorama magazine of the German Alpine Club (DAV) to ordering the book in question.

Without spoiling the lecture, the key message of the book is that a qualitative (rather than a quantitative) understanding of the weather is rather straightforward and can be derived not from the ground level pressure maps, but from the so called 500 hPa map. Roughly spoken, this map shows the pressure distribution in approximately 5500m above sea level. This is a good source of information as the air movements are unhindered by ground features and still free from phenomena prevalent in the upper Troposphere.

Different forecasts for this kind of data set are readily available even for free, e.g. on wetterzentrale.de. Next to the Northern Hemisphere Overview there is also a Central Europe rendering available offering a good insight for the southern Germany region that I am mostly interested in.

The book quite succinctly teaches how to interpret this data for a higher level understanding of the weather context. As I have used my new knowledge now already for some time, I can confirm that my understanding of the long term developments for the next week or two have become much better and my ability to judge the reliability of any of the localized weather forecasts have improved significantly.

Although it seems that there are also freely accessible resources available on the net on how to interpret the 500 hPa maps, reading the book is very efficient and so I can only recommend that if you are also interested to get a better understanding of the weather to buy the book on amazon.

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