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The Micro Forecast

November 30, 2010

If the weather is the one topic that everyone cares about, then it’s no surprise that weather-focused websites and blogs are a dime a dozen.   But for one particular niche need—that of the micro forecast—standouts are surprisingly few and far between.

“Micro forecast” is this blogger’s neologism for a weather forecast limited to a specific geographical area for a very brief window of time: something like the next 20 minutes or so. Being able to accurately assess, for example, whether the current break between rain showers will last for the duration of my bike ride home, or whether waiting 10 minutes for the current downpour to subside is a good strategy, well, that’s quite a valuable bit of intelligence.

For those residing in the U.S., Weather Underground ( ) is a good tool for these micro forecasts.  Click on your city, find your own location on the map, and click the “Animate” link to see the NEXRAD satellite imagery in motion.  Precipitation is rendered in a spectrum of colors from green to yellow to orange, depending on the intensity of the system.  (Red, purple, and pink are also reserved for even more intense rain, though I personally have never seen them.)

The data is refreshed every 360 seconds, or six minutes.   The animated imagery, synchronized with an onscreen clock, make it pretty easy to gage the speed of the precipitation band as it moves through the atmosphere.   And you can zoom in for a closer look (though the images do tend to pixelate with zoom mode).

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