Weather Forecasting Services
Much like my fascination with maps, my interest in weather forecasting dates from when I was growing up on a farm in rural Ireland. With an outdoor business like that based somewhere with a changeable maritime climate, knowledge of whatever weather was on the way was crucial. Spells of dry weather come and go and there are many things that need doing when those episodes arrive. Often, they don’t come when they are needed and that causes farmers many headaches. My father’s bugbear was making silage and,occasionally, hay but others had cereal crops to harvest and this was their only income for the year.
The main cause of my interest these days is recreation. Given that hill country often can generate its own weather, anyone with an interest in its exploration will keep an eye on weather forecasts too. Some are after Quality Mountain Days because they are working towards a mountain leadership or guiding qualification. That doe not mean the sort of pleasant weather that most of us enjoy but the complete opposite. Being able to deal with poor visibility and other challenging circumstances is a must for any mountain guide since weather can change so quickly and they are going to be responsible for the welfare of others. An assessment of when it is time to turn back is just as important because such is the relative permanence of mountains that there is no point putting one’s safety at risk.
My own wanderings seek to avoid such situations so it helps to check on weather forecasts. Of course, they are not infallible even with the improvements in meteorology over the decades. There still are days that are supposed to be sunny yet the hill country that you visit may be shrouded in clag. Then, decisions need to be made on the day that need a certain amount of seasoned assessment. Turning back always is an option as frustrating as it might be at the time and there nearly always can be other routes that can be followed. An example is when I abandoned a planned walk to Fairfield in the Lake District and instead chose to descend to Patterdale via Grisedale. The day was deprived of a walk and I ended up somewhere new, a satisfying outcome that warded off any signs of grumpiness.
Before my horizons went international, what you would have found here was limited largely to Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Some of those extended their reach overseas anyway yet looking at what local providers have probably is a sensible course that should continue to expand the list. The range of climates has extended beyond the temperate maritime one of my home islands to include more continental ones. In fact, climate websites like Climates to Travel and Weather and Climate allow for a broader assessment like picking the times of year when overseas visits are likely to meet with the best conditions for outdoor activity, not too hot and not too wet or windy. A recent trip to Mallorca was chosen on that basis. Then, the actual weather conditions come into play.
When Online Weather existed, I was a regular visitor because of its regional weather overview maps but it got taken over by Accuweather and that meant changes when it became Accuweather U.K. and Ireland. Sadly, those useful overview maps are gone now but longer term weather forecasting is its compensation, as precarious as that can be for a grouping of islands on the eastern fringes of the North Atlantic. One thing that has stayed the course is the mountain forecasting section and it is that which guarantees Accuweather a place on this listing, especially for the coverage of Irish mountain areas. While some in Ireland may not have the most favourable opinion of the accuracy of the forecasts, having a few different sources of information helps to build up a more complete picture. Accuweather.com International may seem a surprising inclusion when there is a local variant but there have been times when it has been better for location forecasting than its British and Irish counterpart.
The remit of Agenzia Regionale per la Prevenzione e Protezione Ambientale del Veneto (or Regional Agency for Environmental Protection of Veneto) is more like the Environment Agency in the U.K. and much of the website is not translated from Italian but there is weather forecasting information of the site home page and with further information available in English and German as well as the home language. There are weather summaries for the Dolomites and Lake Garda too so those guarantee the appearance of this entry because of the walking and cycling opportunities that abound in each area.
You cannot really avoid mentioning the BBC when it comes to U.K. weather. However, their offering isn’t the first port of call for me anymore since they changed their way of doing things. Now that the presentation is largely visual, I find myself wanting that little extra but they are a public service broadcaster and that shines through here. Symbols have gone the way of the dodo and it is left to colour coding to highlight cloud, rain and so on. In its own way, it does work but an old fashioned synoptic map has no substitute for me and I go elsewhere these days.
It is tempting to think that this website just applies to one part of England but there is something of use to those from beyond Gloucestershire and the Costwolds too. After all, there is a most useful rain radar display. There are pause and play buttons and you can roll through all the times in a sequence at your ease with previous and next buttons, just like the current Met Office offering will not do. That is not all but the site got discovered while I was pondering the idea of doing something similar with rainfall radar data on my own website. There is a lot here so I will let you browse at your leisure.
It isn’t just the overhead weather with which this agency has to concern itself but also the effects of the molten rock and ash that gets spewed up into the sky from time to time. That came in most useful when two springtime eruptions caused disruption in consecutive but I am one of those who prefers to see geological activity from a safe distance so it’s the weather reporting that naturally is of more interest to more. Still, staying safe in Iceland’s countryside involves being geologically aware too so there is a bit to learn before going and knowing the climate is part of that too. Towards that end, the six day forecasts for selected locations could come in very handy.
The idea of paying this spot a visit was in mind for a while before I made something of it so it should be no surprise that I found the website for its weather service. For such a small island, it’s amazing how varied its weather can be, a point that was driven home to me of a Sunday on a mixed Mayday bank holiday weekend. Sea area forecasting is vital for a place like the Isle of Man so it should come as no surprise that it takes up as much space in the forecasts as it does.
There is a seasonal aspect to the work of this organisation in that felltop assessors take it in turns to ascend Helvellyn every day throughout the winter to assess the conditions on its top. That’s vital when the Cumbrian fells get of coating of snow, particularly given the development of cornices and the likelihood of avalanches, and when things get stormy as they have done at times this winter. There was a time when this work was supported by the Lake District National Park Authority but government spending cuts have meant that alternative sources funding have had to be sought. Let’s hope the service continues. As well as the regular forecasts drafted by the Met Office and winter hillwalking advice, there are photos taken by the assessors too so you can experience a little of what they see.
This is Ireland’s main meteorological service and they got better in recent times too; a precipitation (mostly rain but hail or snow is not unknown either) radar page can be found on the site now. Though more of a general service with specialisations for industries like agriculture and fishing, their forecasts do give you an idea of what you might get. Outlooks are given up to five days ahead and and three day variants are split into region and county too.
This is a recently discovered upstart and very useful it is too. Forecasting is a little further into the future than the more cautious Met Office or Met Éireann but everyone should know things are less certain the further ahead you look anyway. It’s a useful overview of what lies ahead and with some quirky insights too.
Somehow, I came upon this in the days before Storm Doris passed over Britain and Ireland in 2018. It collects weather warning information for most European countries so it could have a use in pinpointing severe weather before an overseas trip. The information comes from EUMETNET, a network of European meteorological services.
Though this mainly is for mountain snow and avalanche forecasting, it does cover all of mainland Italy and the island of Sicily. The home page features a clickable map that brings up regional forecasts on acknowledge that you are using the service at your own risk. For some reason, this is more important on this website than others and we all should use weather forecasts in that frame of mind anyway.
As its name should suggest, this website provides weather information for the Trentino region in the north of Italy. With the Alpine mountains found round about here, it mainly is worth a look since the Dolomites have a reputation for looking stunning.
There is no way that a list of weather website for use when planning an outdoors outing can exclude the venerable MWIS. The Scottish hills are the mainstay here with Southern Uplands, Southeastern Highlands, Cairngorms and Monadhliath, Western Highlands and Northwest Highlands all getting a seven day service. Also getting a seven day offering are the Cumbrian fells with the Peak District & Yorkshire Dales and Snowdonia receiving attention for three days a week (Friday to Sunday inclusive). Complimenting this is their sharing of Met Office synoptic charts for the North Atlantic whose usefulness cannot be disputed so long as you know know to read the things but you always can go to the Met Office website for explanations of the various symbols on there.
This is an international affair that picks out nearby hills according to the I.P. address of your network connection. In my case, these are in the Peak District though Shutlingsloe and Shining Tor are absent. Nevertheless, the Roaches and Bleaklow get a mention among others so it’s worth a look for that kind of thing alone. That it has a worldwide coverage is an added attraction.
While not strictly speaking a weather service as such, the stability of snow coverage on Scottish mountains is weather dependent so it merits inclusion here. The areas covered include around Creag Meagaidh, Glencoe, Lochaber, Northern Cairngorms, Southern Cairngorms and Torridon. There are blogs for each of these areas too so further insight is available. Saying that, such is the variability of snow cover that you also need to be able to form your own judgements of conditions and this of course needs experience with training to go with that. Of course, the need is seasonal and varies from year to year yet it never goes away either.
While I found this while doing some research for a possible visit to Austria, other countries are covered too and the U.K is one of those with Éire not being excluded. Despite the name, any featured locations are not covered just during wintertime but around the year too so it is not just the alternation of seasons between northern and southern hemispheres that keeps this going year round.
It was the BBC’s insistence on changing how they present their forecasts that caused me to move over to the Met Office’s forecasts. In their turn, they went about changing things too so we have lost some elements of the previous such as previous and next arrows for maps. As long as it lasted, I was sticking with the old website as much as possible but I have no choice but to make do with the new one now.
That is not to say that the change did not bring some good things. There are hourly location forecasts covering a 48 hours of a seven day sweep. International destination forecasts are among these with even Foynes in County Limerick and Shannon in County Clare being Irish possibilities. Sunrise and sunset times are included though you can use The Time and Place to look further ahead should to do so. Mountain weather forecasting remains and summits of hills get five day forecasts as do a variety of youth hostels. It is the quality of the data though that remains the draw and it is this that the BBC and others broadcast all the while too.
While I cannot say that I have ever used either of these very much, they’re added here for a greater sense of completeness. The first one concerns itself with looking ahead in a more general fashion while the second is a variation on the Accuweather theme.
When it comes to exploring the Alps, German is a handy language to have as both these websites prove. Neither are in English so you need either to speak the language or have a good online translating tool. The first of the pair is Austrian while the second includes Germany and Switzerland as well. Bavarian Radio also have a weather portal for their part of Germany and that is another place to check. Since these all give more local points of view than either the Met Office or Accuweather, it might even be worth getting a working knowledge of German so you can work out what they are saying in addition to the graphical presentations that they offer; it would be handy for any trips to these places so I am attempting to do the same myself.
This is more useful for those exploring coastline rather than hill country but it still has a use. In fact, it’s geared more towards those who need to know about wind for their outdoor activities and both windsurfing and kitesurfing get a mention. Nevertheless, knowing that it’s windy can have a use in being aware of how conditions are for a coastal walk and I enjoyed a few of those during 2012.
This is a weather forecasting service that I discovered via a forum posting complaining about what the Met Office have done to their website. Though it looks a little basic in appearance, all the weather information that you’d expect is there so I’ll be keeping an eye on how it develops.
It probably would surprise you to hear that the Norwegian online weather service finds its way on here when I never have been to Norway. However, it does cover more of the world than Norway and merited a mention in a photography article by Adrian Hendroff in Walking World Ireland during 2012. The website is a result of a collaboration between the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. There is an English language option and it’s not set by default so some effort is needed on the part of an English-speaking visitor’s part but there’s a lot here to be savoured so there is a return to be had.