Wetherby and Kielder Weather

OK not political, FoI or Disability related for once.

I’ve been busy recently writing two Weather websites. The first, Wetherby Weather, started from a bargain basement purchase of a weather station on eBay. Using Cumulus and various utilities written by generous and talented third parties, that data is put on the Web – realtime and archived – as well as being supplied to various weather networks round the world. I log wind direction and strength (average and gust), also temperature, barometric pressure and humidity.

What do most people look at weather websites for, though? The forecast. The best I could achieve with that was the Zambretti automatic short-term weather forecast. That’s reasonable for a few hours, if a little less than descriptive – but not much more than that. I linked to the Met Office forecast – but ideally wanted to produce my own.

WXSIM fits the bill perfectly. It’s just been adjusted to work with Cumulus. It is customised for Wetherby. It takes aviation weather data, meteorological station, weather buoys, ozone measurements, data from regular weather balloon soundings and the outputs of the global forecast system. Starting with the current and historical data from my weather station, and using carefully tailored internal algorithms, it models various elements of the weather over the next few days.

It models temperature, dew point, precipitation, barometric pressure, wind direction, strength and gusts at various levels, advection, soil moisture, Ultraviolet radiation, visibility, wind chill, humidex, evapotranspiration, cloud cover at five atmospheric levels, and other things beyond my ken, to produce a detailed and accurate weather forecast.

I perform some manual forecasts; then my system runs the model and updates the forecast 8 times a day automatically based on the decisions I made in my last manual run.

The detailed forecast is then uploaded and is available on the Wetherby Weather website. It’s also available on the iPhone / Android Wetherby Weather site, as a daily email from the free Wetherby Weather mailing list, via the Wetherby Weather Twitter feed and the Wetherby Weather Facebook profile. I also upload photos, and commentary on any unusual weather events happening in Wetherby.

Then I went away. There’s a fabulous place I go regularly; a disability respite and outdoor activity centre on Kielder water. It sounds trite but the Calvert Trust Kielder has changed my life. It’s made me aware of what can happen with a staff and organisational “can do” attitude and atmosphere; as opposed to some less helpful attitudes from other organisations I could mention. It’s been a challenge and a comfort over the past 10 years; a genuine respite – particularly during the shameful abuse and eviction attempt by Leonard Cheshire..

I ruminated that finding an accurate forecast for Kielder is difficult. A decent, customised forecast for Kielder would be invaluable. With my recent experience with Wetherby, I knew that I could set up a forecast for Kielder. So I did. See the Kielder Weather website and Kielder Weather mobile site, also the Kielder Weather Twitter feed and Kielder Weather Facebook profile.

The Calvert Trust Kielder feature my forecast on their homepage, and published a news article about my forecasts.

So what now? I archive both sets of forecasts and will be tweaking them against actual data observed – though this is proving somewhat difficult to obtain for Kielder. I am hoping to increase the accuracy of my forecasts.

I’m in the middle of an Open University course on meteorology (having got an existing degree in Earth Sciences and IT through them). No doubt that will inspire me further in new directions!