Outdoor Discoveries

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

A new weather map

25th August 2022

In the past, seeing changes in the presentation of weather information is something that has raised my ire. When the BBC did away with weather maps, I moved over to the Met Office for sake of keeping the added overview that such things provide. Location-based weather forecasting undoubtedly is useful and I use it a lot but the overview remains especially helpful.

It may seem a niche interest to many but one thing that I find really useful is a rain radar map. Handily, both Met Eireann and the Met Office incorporate these into their phone apps so you can use them while out hiking. In the case of the former, it really saw usage during a recent trip to Ireland when light rain showers dampened at least some of the Kerry mountains. Seeing that the shower was only a passing affair helped enormously with decision-making. Naturally, this all depended on the availability of phone signal and it was never up to the minute but the lag never got in the way of seeing the way that things were moving.

A rain radar map often helps when you are indoors too since waiting out a passing shower or a spell of rain can allow you to do things outside when conditions are drier. This applies to cycling to and from work, going shopping, exercising or travelling further afield. For all these, websites are as useful as phone apps.

That brings me to the main subject of this piece since the Met Office is trying out things all the while. Some are appreciated and successful while others are unwanted with some needing to be tolerated when they become permanent. Of all these, there are some changes that get previewed and a new way of presenting past and predicted weather is among them.

Both now appear in the same place and it only is the timeline that tells you that you are dealing with observed or predicted weather. However, the difference between the two is not as clear-cut as it could be. With rainfall patterns, there are hints like the extra resolution of observed data compared to what is predicted. There is one other thing to realise: the frequency of the predicted data appears to be once every fifteen minutes. Thus, if you see timepoints that are not at 0, 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour, then you definitely have an observation map layer on display.

The new map may not be intended to remain open in a web browser from one day to the next but that is a habit of mine. The older maps work well with this since they reset to the latest data even if you may need to advance the timeline accordingly on the radar map. The new map does not do this but it is in its beta phase at the moment and hence could change according to user feedback. For that reason, I am not being as critical as I have been in the past when equivalent changes have been made and it is larger too, a boon for those of us using larger screens (I am writing these words on a 34″ widescreen monitor that I use with my home workstations). So far, what is there looks interesting so I plan to keep an eye on where it goes now.

Things change all the time anyway and not always for the better. The location-based forecasts on the Met Office website do not allow for favourites to be kept or previous searches to be retained so I would like to see them look at this as well. At the moment, I am looking at setting up a list on this website of links to ones that I commonly use for the reference of visitors to this website as much as myself. Handily, you can get forecasts for mountain tops like Helvellyn and even lakes like Ullswater so that might be the basis of an interesting selection.

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