Pivotal Weather Quickstart Tutorial

Pivotal Weather Quickstart Tutorial

Weather Tools & Resources

In this episode of Weather Decoded TV, I show you how to use Pivotal Weather. I also show you some cool gizmos you can use on the website as well.

That Being Said…

That being said, if your a weather enthusiast especially, I encourage you to join our “Superforecasters Tribe” email newsletter below. You’ll get free weather educational tutorials and forecast breakdowns week to week.

And after you do, share this with your friends.

-Cody

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Jan 19, 2017
11 Best Weather Radar Apps For Weather Enthusiasts

11 Best Weather Radar Apps For Weather Enthusiasts

Weather Tools & Resources

If your a weather enthusiast, these are what I consider essential radar platforms.

Below, I have scrounged around deep into the bowels of the inter webs to uncover the most heralded weather enthusiast radar platforms I could find. I have broken this up into two sections: 1.) Radars that you can use for free 2.) Paid radar applications that are worth the money.

Make sure to bookmark this page, so that you can reference it when needed.

Best Weather Radar Apps

Free:

  • Wunderground: This is one of the best free radar tools online out there. There are national, regional, and local views with many different options and capabilities.
  • NWS: The National Weather Service has a solid radar platform on their website with an extremely large national view, regional views, and local views.
  • Intellicast: There is a decent radar with different views on this website, including precipitation type.
  • College of DuPage: There are some really handy features on here, including hi-resolution radar and satellite data, with several different regional views. You can also overlay parameters and other features on top of the radar / satellite. This is great for nowcasting, especially for severe weather.
  • MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar: Overall, a nice free app for iPhones. Current conditions and high quality radar graphics overlaid Google Maps.
  • Weather Underground: An alternate to MyRadar NOAA Weather Radar for android is the Weather Underground app. There are similar features in this app with current conditions, detailed forecasts, and high quality radar graphics overlaid Google Maps.

Paid:

  • GrLevelX: Stunning radar graphics and a palette of radar analysis features are offered. Different packages / prices available.
  • Weather Studio: A radar platform with great graphics and several analysis and model overlay features.
  • Radar Lab HD: A simple design with many different radar analysis features with great graphics.
  • RadarScope: A really sleek and easy to use radar platform. This platform works with Apple and Android products.

If you want to further your meteorological skills, become a forecasting champion, and have access to more of these posts, I encourage you to sign up to our newsletter below.

And don’t forget to bookmark this page and share it with your friends.

-Cody

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Jul 28, 2016
The 115 Best Online Weather Resources

The 115 Best Online Weather Resources

Weather Tools & Resources

Computer Models, Observational / Analysis Tools, Outlooks, Archives, & Climate Data


 

General

  • NWS: The National Weather Service offers forecasts, analysis tools, watches, warnings, outlooks, climate data, education, and more for the U.S.
  • SPC: The Storm Prediction Center offers official convective outlooks, discussions, watches, warnings, and more on their website for severe weather.
  • WPC: The Weather Prediction Center offers outlooks of general surface analysis forecasts and national precipitation forecasts.
  • NHC: The National Hurricane Center offers outlooks and tools for the tropics.
  • CPC: The Climate Prediction Center offers long term outlooks for the U.S. including weekly, monthly, and seasonal forecasts.
  • SWPC: The Space Weather Prediction Center offers space weather analysis and forecasts.

 

 ^ Back to top of page ^


 

Computer Models

General:

  • Pivotal Weather: For those who are looking for an easy to use and beautiful graphical interface. Very smooth and visually appealing maps is offered here. There are national and regional views, which makes this website stand out from others as well. The ECMWF, GFS, GGEM, HRRR, NAM, 4km NAM, RAP, and RGEM are available here. Ease of use is relatively easy. There is also detailed forecasted model skew-t’s offered here, using SHARPpy, a big bonus.
  • College of DuPage: For those who are looking for an easy to use, quickly updating website. Overall, this is a very solid website with several parameters as well as above average graphics. There are national and regional views. The wind barbs / streamlines are highly detailed on this website. Ease of use is relatively smooth. Several models are available here, including the HRRR, RAP, NAM, 4km NAM, SREF, GFS, GEFS, ECMWF, and CFSv2 models are offered here. However, the GEM is not included. There is also detailed forecasted model skew-t’s offered here, using SHARPpy, a big bonus.
  • Twister Data: For those who are forecasting severe weather setups. This website has been around for several years and for it’s time when it was launched, had great graphics. This is one of my favorites when it comes to forecasting severe weather / tornadoes. Several severe-weather parameters are offered here. I really like the color scheme and the moisture/temp + wind barb overlay this website offers. It is simple and easy to use as well. The RAP, NAM, and GFS are offered here. There is also model-forecasted soundings and hodographs.
  • Tropical Tidbits: For those who want great graphics and several different model choices. This website offers several different models including the GFS, EURO, CMC, NAVGEM, HWRF, HWRF-P, GFDL, GFDL-P, NAM (32km, 12km, 4km), WRF-ARW, WRF-NMM, RGEM, HRRR, CFS, CanSIPS, NMME. There is also ensemble data offered here, including the EPS, GEFS, and GEPS.
  • NCEP: For those who are conventional. The National Weather Service offers some of the american models on their website, including the GFS, NAM, Hi-res NAM, WRF, RAP, HRRR, & SREF. There are mostly national views, however there are some regional views as well. The ease of use is average and the graphics are average as well. However, the graphics are overall clean and have been around for quite a while for users that are familiar to these.
  • Penn State eWall: For those who want to get lost in a sea of endless data and for those who want to compare different model parameters. This website is literally a smorgasbord of computer model / ensemble, satellite, and radar data. There are several parameters offered on this website and many different variations of these parameters. The GFS, NAM, HRRR, CMC, NAVY, and EURO and other models are offered here. The website design is extremely messy, however, if you are the type that likes to get lost and explore, this website is for you. Their 4-panel model charts on here are nice to compare different parameters side by side. This website also offers ensembles.
  • WxCaster: For those who are looking for forecasted snowfall data. This website has a jumble of different things. Overall the website design is poor, however there are some things here that Earl has locked up here better than anyone else IMO. This website is predominately good for model forecasted snowfall. There are other things offered here as well, including meteograms, skew-t’s, and other tools and parameters.
  • Wundermap: For those who are looking for beautiful, high resolution graphics and overlays. A beautiful graphical interface with a radar overlay on top of a map where you can pan and zoom in is offered here. Current conditions and analysis are also offered. The European computer model looks great on this website and there are many parameters for this model here, not readily found elsewhere. Due to the graphical interface, the website has a tendency to lag a bit, however. It is also lacking some parameters, especially for short range models.
  • FSU: For those who are looking for colorful, bigger picture view of weather patterns. This website offers an overall good graphical interface with different parameters examining about half the northern hemisphere, centered around the Atlantic. This view is good for examining large scale weather patterns.
  • UCAR: For the conventional type. Also for those who want to examine clouds at different layers. This website has been around for a while, and so have it’s graphics and overall design. The NAM and GFS are offered here with a few different variables for each model.
  • NSSL 4km WRF: For those who are looking for several parameters of high res model data. The 4km WRF’s home. Several different parameters are offered for the 4km WRF on this website, perhaps more than any other website. The overall ease of use is average.
  • NOAA HRRR: For those who are looking for high-res, short-interval model data, particularly for thunderstorms. This is the home of the High Resolution Rapid Refresh and there are a ton of different parameters used to examine short term weather conditions offered here. Different regions across the U.S. and short time intervals (1 hour and 15 minute intervals) are offered here. Overall ease of use is average.
  • Washington: For those who are tracking systems coming onto shore of the western U.S. Not only is this website useful for folks examining the weather in the Pacific Northwest, it is also useful for examining storm systems and weather patterns in the eastern Pacific Ocean which can tell a lot on how the weather evolves for the rest of the country. The graphical interface and detail is relatively nice on here.
  • NCEP DGEX: For those who are looking for a unique model / another perspective. This website offers a model called the DGEX. It is essentially the NAM model extended to 192 hours. The NAM goes out to 84 hours and then the GFS takes in the NAM’s data at 84 hours and pulls it’s data into the GFS algorithms which are then used to forecast to 192 hours. Ease of use is average.
  • Colorado State: For those who want to compare model forecasted parameters with 4 panel charts. These are nice to view different parameters side by side. The graphics and the website are overall good.

 

Ensembles:

  • Penn State eWall: For those who want to get lost in a sea of endless data and for those who want to compare different model parameters. This website is literally a smorgasbord of computer model / ensemble, satellite, and radar data. There are several parameters offered on this website and many different variations of these parameters. The GFS, NAM, HRRR, CMC, NAVY, and EURO and other models are offered here. The website design is extremely messy, however, if you are the type that likes to get lost and explore, this website is for you. Their 4-panel model charts on here are nice to compare different parameters side by side. This website also offers ensembles.
  • Tropical Tidbits: For those who want great graphics and several different model choices. This website offers several different models including the GFS, EURO, CMC, NAVGEM, HWRF, HWRF-P, GFDL, GFDL-P, NAM (32km, 12km, 4km), WRF-ARW, WRF-NMM, RGEM, HRRR, CFS, CanSIPS, NMME. There is also ensemble data offered here, including the EPS, GEFS, and GEPS.
  • SPC SREF: For those who are looking for different model ensemble data blended together into one model. This model generates a blended forecast based off several member runs of other models. This is a good forecasting tool to add to your toolbox for forecasting all types of weather.
  • SPC SSEO: For those who are looking for different model ensemble data blended together into one model for examining severe thunderstorms. This model generates a blended forecast based off several member runs of other models. This is a good forecasting tool to add to your toolbox if you are forecasting severe thunderstorms. I believe this type of model will be the next generation of weather forecasting. This model may become more and more popular into the future as we begin to examine specific storms and forecast their specific behavior rather than “if its going to storm or not”.
  • WPC Snow Accumulation Probabilities: For those who are looking for a forecasted ensemble of snowfall accumulation. This is a pretty handy and overall pretty accurate tool. There are probabilities offered on this website that indicate how likely snow of a certain value (ex. 2” or greater, 4” or greater, 6” or greater) will fall in a specific location. Google maps are overplayed with an overall good graphical interface.

 

Unique & Customize-able: 

  • Plymouth: For those who want to customize. This website offers a unique capability where you can customize your model data. This includes customizing parameters, graphics, overlays, regions, time period, etc. Overall the website design and ease of use isn’t great, but the customizable features offered is the best of its class.
  • FNMOC: For those who are looking to examine ocean weather and aviation weather. Several parameters use to examine waves / oceanic weather, and aviation weather are offered on this website. There are many different regions offered around the world.
  • Wyoming: For those who are looking for customization and overlays. Similar to Plymouth, this website allows you to customize your maps in terms of stacking multiple parameters on top of eachother. One thing that is nice about this website is the streamlines / wind barb features offered here, as well as several different parameters offered. It takes a bit of experimentation but can be useful once one gets the hang of it.
  • NCEP Low Tracking: For those who want to analyze forecasted low pressure system tracks. This website is a unique tool to add to your forecasting tool box. It offers forecasted surface low tracks with lines showing where the low pressure systems are forecasted to go. There is also a multi-model field section to see what different models are forecasting.
  • Washington: For those who are tracking systems coming onto shore of the western U.S. Not only is this website useful for
  • ARL: For those who are looking for customizable forecasting tools. This website offers several different customizable forecasted model soundings, meteograms, and other tools for several different areas. Overall ease of use is relatively easy and they send you a PDF of your requested output.
  • ISU Meteogram Generator: For those who are looking for specific data, for specific times, for specific locations. This website lets you view model-forecasted parameters such as temperature, wind, moisture, precip amounts, precip type, etc. for specific locations. You can view text data as well as graphical data on here. This website is relatively easy to use once you get the hang of it.
  • Wx Maps: For those who are looking for beautiful graphical data for specific parameters, for a specific time, for a specific location. They also have beautiful model graphics and several different views around the world. Similar to the ISU meteogram generator website, this website allows you to view meteograms from different models and time periods for some of the major cities in the U.S. They have a unique pressure visualization feature through time on the meteogram. The graphics are pretty good on here and ease of use is very easy.

 

 ^ Back to top of page ^


 

Observational Analysis

General:

  • SPC Mesoanalysis: This is an essential for viewing current data. Literally everything you need is on here, including current obs, radar, satellite, parameters, forecasted parameters, and even some climatology. You can accomplish some deep analyzing on here.
  • SPC Mesoanalysis Composite: It is essentially the same thing as the regular mesoanalysis page, however here you can overlay multiple layers on top of each other.
  • UCAR: Several observational tools are offered here, including: surface data, upper air data, radar, satellite, soundings, and more. I personally like the surface charts made on this website.
  • Intellicast: Radar, satellite, watches/warnings, local weather reports, and beautiful maps are offered here.
  • College of DuPage: High quality radar and satellite graphics and features are offered here. There is also a small meso-analysis section for deeper analysis.
  • SPC Upper Air: You can retrieve the Storm Prediction Center’s upper air maps here. They also offer printer-friendly maps. Another unique feature on this page is that you can view upper air maps dating all the way back to 1998.
  • SPC Soundings: View official observed soundings from the Storm Prediction Center here. You can view previous soundings a few days back.
  • NHC: View observed weather data in the Atlantic Ocean for tropical systems analysis and forecasting via the National Hurricane Center.
  • AHPS: View hydrologic data including precipitation, river observations, air quality, and radar.
  • Mesonet: View colored wind speed map of the U.S.

 

Radar:

  • Wunderground: This is one of the best free radar tools online out there. There are national, regional, and local views with many different options and capabilities.
  • NWS: The National Weather Service has a solid radar platform on their website with an extremely large national view, regional views, and local views.
  • Intellicast: There is a decent radar with different views on this website, including precipitation type.
  • College of DuPage: There are some really handy features on here, including hi-resolution radar and satellite data, with several different regional views. You can also overlay parameters and other features on top of the radar / satellite. This is great for nowcasting, especially for severe weather.

 

Satellite: 

  • College of DuPage: There are some really handy features on here, including hi-resolution radar and satellite data, with several different regional views. You can also overlay parameters and other features on top of the radar / satellite. This is great for nowcasting, especially for severe weather.
  • Aviation Weather: A nice and simple interface is offered here where you can pull up regional views of satellite. You can view visible, infrared, and water vapor images.
  • NOAA GOES:  You can view national and oceanic views around the U.S. with several different resolutions and product types. Good for examining troughs and tropical weather.
  • NHC: The National Hurricane Center offers several different regional and product satellite variations for the tropics.
  • CSU: CSU offers several different satellite types and resolutions, including occasionally a 1-minute interval satellite with very high resolution.
  • NASA: Global and regional views are offered here. Visible, infrared, water vapor, and many different options for each image are offered here.

 

Tropical: 

  • Ocean Weather: You can view current ocean conditions for many different tropical regions throughout the world.
  • NDBC: The National Data Buoy Center offers buoy data across the world.
  • NHC: The National Hurricane Center offers analysis products as well as reports, watches, and warnings across the eastern Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
  • Tropical Tidbits: There are a few different ocean / oceanic air space analysis tools offered here with good graphics.
  • CPC: The Climate Prediction Center offers current and past analysis of teleconnections. Use this to analyze oceanic temperatures and their influence on weather patterns.

 

Aviation: 

  • Aviation Weather: NOAA’s Aviation Weather Center offers several analysis tools, forecasts, and more.
  • US Air Net: This website offers detailed graphical forecast for time periods tailored to aviation-related sports and enthusiasts.

 

Snow / Ice Pack: 


 

Space Weather: 

  • SWPC: The Space Weather Prediction Center offers space weather forecasts and analysis tools.
  • SWPC Enthusiasts Page: The Space Weather Prediction Center has a dashboard styled page geared towards space weather enthusiasts.
  • Space Weather: This is a good website to view space weather news, reports, and submitted photos.
  • Space Weather Live: There are space weather analysis and forecasts on this page with good graphics.
  • SpaceW Plots: You can view plots and sun data on this website for forecasting / nowcasting auroras.

 

Other: 

  • Seismic Monitor: View seismic activity and earthquakes around the world here.
  • Moon Phases: View past, current, and future moon phases here.

 

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Climate Analysis & Forecasting

  • NOAA Climate: This is a good go-to resource for pretty much every area of climate analysis and forecasting.
  • Climate Prediction Center: This is a good resource to view temperature and precipitation forecast anomalies for the next several days, weeks, and months.
  • CPC Teleconnections: View current and past sea surface temperatures in different regions of the oceans, including AO, NAO, PNA, and AAO observations and forecasted outlooks.
  • NCDC: The National Centers For Environmental Information offers a significant amount of data and recent reports of the climate.
  • AHPS: View precipitation averages and anomalies for the U.S.
  • SPC Tornado Outbreaks: This is a really interesting page if you want archived data, forecasts, and media to analyze previous tornado outbreaks across the U.S.

 

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Archived Data

  • CSU: Colorado State has several different archived maps on this website.
  • UCAR: View past surface, upper air, radar, and satellite conditions.
  • NSSL: View archived processed radar data and analysis.
  • NCDC Nexrad: You can search for virtually any type of radar data for any region going back several years. Select what type of data you want and they will send you a file you can import into the NOAA Toolkit program.
  • NCDC NOMADS: Here you can find archived model forecast data.
  • Iowa State IEM Cow: View past warning and storm report data here by searching for locations, time periods, and storm report types.
  • NCDC NOMADS: Here you can find archived model forecast data.
  • SPC Tornado Outbreaks: This is a cool page to view historical tornado outbreak analysis, reports, forecasts, media, and other data across the U.S.

 

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Forums

  • American Wx: Probably the largest weather forum out there with literally all sorts of discussions going on.
  • Accuweather: A rather large forum with several topics going on.
  • Storm Track: A large severe weather / storm chasing related forum.
  • Talk Weather: A good weather forum with a moderate amount of activity.

 

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Software & Apps

General: 

  • Allison House: You can retrieve a bunch of analysis data including observations, radar, lightning, mesoanalysis, SPC, and other data. You can integrate this data with other some other software platforms.
  • SimuAwips: View model, radar, satellite, lightning, text bulletins, and analysis data.

 

Models: 

  • HazWx: Beautiful graphics overlaid a Google Maps type interface. Several different models and different packages to choose from.
  • American Wx: American Wx offers their own suite of models with nice graphics.
  • Weather Bell: A nice suite of models with very nice graphics are offered here, including extended European model features.

 

Radar: 

  • GrLevelX: Stunning radar graphics and a palette of radar analysis features are offered. Different packages / prices available.
  • Weather Studio: A radar platform with great graphics and several analysis and model overlay features.
  • Radar Lab HD: A simple design with many different radar analysis features with great graphics.
  • RadarScope: A really sleek and easy to use radar platform. This platform works with Apple and Android products.

 

 ^ Back to top of page ^


 

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May 22, 2016
Calculating Current Zulu Time

Calculating Current Zulu Time

Weather Tools & Resources

Converting time to current Zulu time, which is also called UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) is quite easy. Follow these simple steps and you should be able to retrieve the time you are looking for.



Step 1: Know Your Own Time Zone.

Here is a map that you can refer to. Remember your time zone’s initials.

This is another map showing how many hours you add or subtract to get the current military time in your area from the current Zulu time.

Step 2: Know if it is Daylight Time or Standard Time

Daylight time runs from March 10th – November 3rd. Standard time runs from November 3rd – March 10th.

Step 3: Add the Two Together

Add your time zone’s initial plus either DT (Daylight Time) or ST (Standard Time). Here is the equation:

(Your time zone’s first initial + (DT or ST)).

For example, if it is February 5th in Omaha, Nebraska, you would be in the Central Time Zone and because it is February 5th, it would be Standard Time. So it would be Central  +  Standard Time. That would be abbreviated to CST.

Here’s another example. If you live in Denver, Colorado and it is May 15th, you would be in the Mountain Time Zone and because it is May 15th, you would be in Daylight Time. So, your time would be Mountain + Daylight Time. That would be abbreviated to MDT.

Step 4: Refer to the Chart Below

Refer to the charts below (whether it is currently Standard Time or Daylight Time) to figure out your Zulu (UTC) time or vise versa.

Zulu time is used for… (show where it starts). Make simple video with marker board and join email list. Show when the models come out and how often and make a chart for them as well.

Note: The weather computer models are initialized typically at 0z, 6z, 12z, and 18z. When they are released to the public, they typically are out about 2 hours later.

This can confuse some people. These models are INITIALIZED at 0z, 6z, 12z, and 18z, meaning they gather all of their data at that time. It then takes them time to process the data and send it out to the public. So the models really do start at those times, you just might not see the model for a couple hours after those times.

Zulu Time Conversion Chart – Daylight Time (3/10 – 11/3)

Zulu Time Conversion Chart – Standard Time (11/3 – 3/10)

And boom, you have your time. If you use Zulu time, bookmark this page and come back to it because it will take some time memorizing this process and these charts. The clock at the top also displays the current Zulu / UTC time.

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Dec 10, 2015
How to See the Aurora Borealis

How to See the Aurora Borealis

Forecast & Analysis Training

Video Notes

I have seen the Aurora Borealis around 10 times in central US. Here is what I know on what it takes on how to view the Aurora Borealis effectively.

Yes, the central US. I’m going to show you how to see the Aurora Borealis effectively.

Viewing the aurora anywhere in the country from the central U.S. and north can be possible. There is a good chance tonight (9-12-14) that auroras may occur due to a large X-class solar flare that hurled a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) towards Earth. Here is what you need to know first:

Step 1: Get Out of the City

Light Pollution Map

It’s rare enough to view the aurora in the United States. It’s even more rare to view it in the middle of the city, especially a larger one. Why is this?

There is this phenomenon known as “light pollution”. Light pollution comes from city lights and the rays of light that comes from them interacts with tiny dust particles and moisture in the air. These particles are then lit up in the sky.

Obviously, this will significantly block your viewing of the northern lights. So get out of the city. The bigger the city, the farther away from it you may need to go. You must go NORTH of the city and keep in mind other cities to your north.

I live in Omaha, NE for example, and I know that driving a good 20 miles northwes-tish will often improve my viewing a good 80%. You must completely go into the country away from big cities in every direction to get 100% viewing.

Step 2: Weather Plays a Significant Role

Clouds. The ultimate buzz-kill of any aurora display. You must make sure that clouds are not in the forecast for your area before you decide to pack up an take a 1 hour drive out of the city.

I kid you not, I have seen this mistake done by people before.

Clouds, thick or thin ones, can pretty much obstruct your aurora viewing pleasures nearly 100%. Partly cloudy skies, however, can reveal the aurora through the breaks in the cloud.

Here are a few nifity tools in determining how extensive the cloud cover will be or is:

1.) The National Weather Service.
A great resource to determine what the skies will be like is the National Weather Service’s Hourly Weather Graph. Just go to their website here, click on your region on the map and your area that you are going to be in, and find the “Hourly Weather Graph” down below the text forecast in the “Additional Forecasts and Information” headline.

Mess around with the tool, it will show you how much sky cover is expected each hour several hours out. Typically your going to want sky cover of 50% or less. YOU MUST MAKE SURE that areas to your north a good 100-150 miles aren’t completely clouded over either, because again your going to be looking NORTH.

2.) Satellite.
Forecasts aren’t always 100% accurate and that is where Mr. Satty comes in. This is a great website to view satellite and satellite loops for your region.

It is very important to loop the satellite so that you can see an animation on where the clouds are going. Sure it might be clear now in your area, but some mean evil clouds from the north might be drifting their way to the south to poop out the show.

Obviously, you can’t view the “visible satellite” at night so you must look at the “infrared satellite” and the “water vapor” satellite.

a.) The infrared satellite:
It measure the temperature of cloud tops. I’m being general when I say this, but to make things easy, make sure that the values in your area and a good 100-150 miles north of you are NOT in the negatives (yellow-blue-green colors). These indicate clouds in the sky. Make sure it is in the positives (orange/browns). Here is a good website to view the infrared satellite.

Infrared Satellite

b.) The water vapor satellite:
It measures water vapor in the atmosphere. This one is a little harder to determine for something like this in my opinion but is a good supplement. To make things easy, you want to be in areas of lower negative values (particularly the dark dark grey / brown areas). Again make sure there isnt’ alot of vapor 100-150 miles or so north of you either. Here is a good website to view the water vapor satellite.

Water Vapor Satellite

Step 3: Pay Attention to These Tools / Forecasts:

After you have viewed the aurora forecast for your area, no clouds are in your vincinity, and you are away from the cities, it is now time to look at the current data. Here are a few nifity tools:

 

How to See the Aurora Borealis

1.) The Auroral Oval
It is an estimation of the current visible aurora. The more orange and extensive that “donut” is, the more intense and viewable the aurora is. View it here.

If there are even whites above you or just to the north, I’d say it is worth a shot to go out and check. Keep in mind this is current data, not a long-term forecast.

Again, keep in mind, this “donut’ doesn’t HAVE to be directly atop you, it just needs to be close and to the north as you will be looking that direction.

You have a good 10 minute warning from this chart to get outside before anything happens.

2.) The KP Index

KP Index Chart

You typically want values 4-5+ if you are in the northern U.S. You typically want values of 6-7+ if you are in the central U.S. And if you are in the southern U.S., your going to want values above that. View it here.

This isn’t always accurate and should be taken with caution, but I’ve seen it preform well many times.

Here is a good site that shows the FORECASTED KP index for several hours in advanced.

3.) Space Weather Plots
These are pretty handy. These obviously look very confusing if this is your first time viewing them. I’m not even going to try and go into specifics on this one. But I’ll show you a good rule of thumb to follow:

 a.) The “Velocity” graph.

Solar Wind Velocity Chart

It pretty much indicates the solar wind speed way up high. When you see this thing in the several hundreds or spike around erratically, it typically means a solar wind storm is present, likely caused by solar flare’s coronal mass ejection (CME). This is the case for our aurora potential tonight.

b.) The “Bz” graph

Solar Bz Chart

When you see this graph bounce around above and below zero quite a ways erratically, a solar storm is likely whipping around the magnetic fields back and forth, so it is a good idea to check the skies when this happens.

c.) The “Density” graph.

Solar Density Chart

Its always good to see this above the green and spiking around a bunch for auroras. It means there is a dense flare interacting with the magnetic field.

d.) The “Bt” graph.

Solar Bt Chart

You typically want values to spike upward or be at a high level above the green for auroras.
You want the Bz graph to show NEGATIVE values, particularly -6 or greater for auroras. This could indicate that auroras are happening right now.

This is BY NO MEANS a black and white rule. I’ve seen so many times the graph go negative and nothing happens. But I can assure you, if the values are positive, auroras are unlikely.

Don’t give up if they are very high in the positive. Especially if you see the graph spike around or spike up suddenly. Again, this likely means the magnetic field are getting whipped around and it could easily go south very rapidly.

You have a good 10 minute warning from this chart to get outside before anything happens.

Step 4: Understand the Current Auroral Intensity

Auroras aren’t always visible to the naked eye. An aurora could be happening and you may not be able to see it always. A good tool to bring if you have one is a DSLR camera.

Set your camera on a high ISO speed (800+), high aperture (>f/4.0), and slow shutter speed (15-30 seconds+) to test and see if auroras are visible on your camera. If they are very visible, you then can fine tune your image creativity by changing around the values to suite your style. Remember high ISO will lower the quality of the image but pick up more light. Slow shutter will blur the movement of the lights a bit.

Here is a tutorial on how to photograph the aurora by photographer Patrick Endres.

Step 5: Be Patient

Bring a lawn chair. Bring proper clothes. Bring some snacks and water.

Many times the aurora will come in and out. Sometimes bursts will last minutes. Sometimes they will last hours. Sometimes there are breaks for a few hours. Sometimes nothing happens at all.

Remember, auroras are a very unpredictable phenomenon. I have seen big X-class flares like this fail and others succeed. I have seen much smaller flares succeed as well so you never know what your going to get for sure.

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Dec 08, 2015