Utilizing the Internet to Create Local Applications at NWS Jacksonville

Utilizing the Internet to Create Local Applications at National Weather Service Jacksonville, FL

by Eric Zappe

Combined seas of 8 feet with a 6 foot easterly swell. Breaker heights of 7 to 9 feet. Tides of 1 to 2 feet above normal. Relative humidity of 35 percent. These are some of the many terms used by the National Weather Service to describe current and/or expected weather conditions. Information is derived from myriad sources, including real-time or near real-time information from the internet.  Meteorologists and other staff members with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, Florida, have written programs to grab and display local information from the internet to assist forecasters in issuing weather-related products. Some of these programs will be discussed below.

A large marine community exists along the Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia coastline. Local mariners routinely request the latest conditions before venturing offshore. To assist staff members, a local program (see below) was written to grab the latest buoy and coastal observations from the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) website, with data redisplayed and color-coded based upon local and regional thresholds.

Marine Plot

During tropical events as well as prolonged onshore events, tidal level and departure data is especially important to coastal residents. A program was written to grab and display tidal graphics and related tabular data from the National Ocean Service under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  An example of one of the local programs follows:

NOS Observations

During the warm season, beach enthusiasts enjoy many of the pristine beaches along our local coastline. Additionally, surfers enjoy the nearly year-round surf. These groups can obtain the latest beach forecast via a surf zone forecast issued daily by the National Weather Service office in Jacksonville.  As part of the forecast process, forecasters rely on local beach reports, both from local authorities as well as from surf reports via the internet.  To assist forecasters, a local program (see below) was written to parse beach reports derived from several internet websites.

Internet Surf Reports

Networks of surface-based observations have been established through the 20th and early 21st centuries to assist public and private communities as well as government entities.  Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) reporting sites are commonly located at airport facilities and designated areas to assist aviation needs as well as weather forecasting.  Other reporting networks have been established to fill in the gaps between ASOS sites and are readily available on the internet. Local programs have been written to grab some of these reporting networks.

The example below lists Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) observations located at land entities under federal management throughout Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.  These observations are critical to National Weather Service meteorologists to assist federal and state government agencies during prescribed burns and wildfire events.

Supplemental Observations

Because weather is dynamic, forecasters rely on the latest information. These examples illustrate how the internet can become an integral part of the forecast process.

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