New DCSki Weather
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5 users
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Scott - DCSki Editor
October 29, 2006
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,139 posts
I just spent the weekend (pretty much the entire weekend, sigh!) switching weather providers for DCSki from AccuWeather to the National Weather Service. You will notice that the weather shown on DCSki's home page, as well as the DCSki Weather page, has changed somewhat. I will probably tinker with the layout and presentation somewhat in the next few weeks.

DCSki now takes raw National Weather Service data available in the public domain and crunches on it to produce current conditions, multi-day forecasts, and snowmaking forecasts for major resort areas throughout the mid-Atlantic. As always, weather can be tricky in the mountain regions, so this data might not always be accurate. Current weather conditions are measured at local airports, and the National Weather Service tries to model nearby point forecasts based on this data.

I have written a lot of software to process this data, and tried to write it conservatively to handle possible error conditions, but I would appreciate your help over the next few weeks in keeping an eye on DCSki Weather and making sure it doesn't report anything outlandish. If you notice anything that looks odd (for example, temperatures in excess of two hundred degrees), please post to the forums describing what you saw and when you saw it. I appreciate the help!
Murphy
October 30, 2006
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
Thanks for the hard work. As a weather buff, I for one appreciate it.

I do have one request. I have my weather station set to Snowshoe on the front page and it says "Near Snowshoe". Can you give us the actual location? The elevation would be a bonus too.

Thanks
snowcone
October 30, 2006
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
Bravo! NWS is so much more accurate than Accuweather. A more conservative tack as far as longer range predictions are concerned is a good thing. Which airport are you getting your feed from, Elkins or Hot Springs?

Also ... isn't it about time to feed the kitty? Do you still have a link to your Pay Pal account? Let us know so we can reward all your hard work in a more substansive manner!
Scott - DCSki Editor
October 30, 2006
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,139 posts
Quote:

Thanks for the hard work. As a weather buff, I for one appreciate it.

I do have one request. I have my weather station set to Snowshoe on the front page and it says "Near Snowshoe". Can you give us the actual location? The elevation would be a bonus too.

Thanks




Hi Murphy,

The front page weather section shows current conditions that were read directly off of weather instruments. ("Current" should be interpreted as "recent" -- the conditions aren't real-time; NOAA only updates them periodically, and DCSki only grabs them from NOAA periodically; so on average they're probably going to be around an hour old, but I show the time the reported conditions were observed.)

Those instruments are only located in specific locations, typically at regional airports. (If you click through to the detailed weather page on DCSki, it will name the monitoring location underneath the weather data.) In the case of Snowshoe, the nearest NOAA monitoring equipment appears to be in Hot Springs / Ingalls. So saying it's "near" Snowshoe is a bit relative, I'm afraid. But NOAA thinks that's the closest match. If there is monitoring equipment closer to Snowshoe (or ideally, at the top of Snowshoe Mountain), I'm not sure the data is in the public domain, and I don't know how to access it. (If Snowshoe or any other resort connected their monitoring equipment to the Internet and produced a data feed, I would be happy to grab it.)

I plan to ask Snowshoe whether the NOAA current conditions generally match up with the conditions they observe firsthand; if not, I may have to pull current conditions for Snowshoe unless I can find a better option. Most of the other resorts should be fairly good; Snowshoe is trickier because it's at such a high elevation, with sometimes wacky weather (such as temperature inversions), and is far away from metro regions that would have more monitoring equipment.

Now, the above discussion was just about current conditions. Forecasts should be more accurate if I understand NOAA's methodology correctly.

For forecasts, NOAA makes point forecasts based on longitude and latitude. I'm pulling their point forecast directly for Snowshoe's lat and long (38.41207N -79.99204W). I believe their point forecasts are tailored as much as possible to a specific lat/long, taking into consideration geography, rather than simply mapping to a nearby monitoring station (as is necessary for current conditions). Again, I'll have to keep an eye on the data and see how it does through the winter. But, the forecasts and current conditions on DCSki should exactly match what you would get when you ask for forecasts directly from NOAA for the various resort locations; unfortunately there aren't many ways I can improve upon it.

AccuWeather and other commercial sources might (and I'm just hypothesizing) apply models to fixed monitoring locations in order to make adjustments for elevation, past weather patterns, etc. But then they would be reporting current conditions which are just estimates vs. concrete, scientific measurements. I know that their data has been wildly off mark at times in the past for places such as Snowshoe, for example reporting current conditions of rain and well above freezing when it was snowing heavily and never climbed above the 20's. When this happened I complained, and they "fixed" the source, possibly by tinkering with the model... But that would only make the model perform better under one set of circumstances while possibly hurting it for others.

This was all a pretty roundabout answer, but as a weather buff, I thought you wouldn't mind the detour. I'm willing to take bets on how long it will be before NOAA changes the format of their data and DCSki Weather breaks. My code should be fairly adaptable to changes, but if it senses a problem, it immediately calls a Hail Mary and disables all weather reporting rather than risk the chance of outputting junk. So if you ever see an error indicating that DCSki Weather is temporarily unavailable, just know that I'm probably feverishly coding up a storm to fix the scripts.
Scott - DCSki Editor
October 30, 2006
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,139 posts
Quote:

Bravo! NWS is so much more accurate than Accuweather. A more conservative tack as far as longer range predictions are concerned is a good thing. Which airport are you getting your feed from, Elkins or Hot Springs?

Also ... isn't it about time to feed the kitty? Do you still have a link to your Pay Pal account? Let us know so we can reward all your hard work in a more substansive manner!




Hi snowcone!

NOAA recommends Hot Springs as the nearest airport for Snowshoe for current conditions, while pointing the Canaan Valley region to Elkins.

I always welcome and appreciate donations, no matter how small. They're certainly not required, but every bit helps, and I could definitely use some motivation to help power through 36 resort profile updates, which are waiting patiently for me to complete. You can reach the PayPal link by clicking "Support DCSki" from the main menu on DCSki's home page (or by going here .) I still have DCSki lapel pins to offer as a gift for donations of $20 or above, and any donation amount results in a "DCSki Supporter" badge next to your name in the forums. (If you've donated in the past and don't need any more DCSki pins, please let me know by e-mail when you make the donation.)

The award for "first unsolicited donation of the fall" goes to Warren, who made his annual donation a couple weeks ago. (Thanks Warren!)
Murphy
October 31, 2006
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
Thanks for the info. This is definitely a big upgrade and much appreciated by many of us. The NWS point forecasts seems to be pretty good. As far as using Hot Springs as the weather station for Snowshoe, it's probably as good as you'll get unless you can find real time data from the station that's located directly on the mountain. There is one there because they report daily min and max temps but I can't find real time data for it. The other option is Greenbank Observatory. You can get their realtime data HERE. As I type Greenbank is over 20 degrees cooler than Hot Springs but I'd guess Hot Springs is probably more representative of Snowshoe.

There are also a number of realtime links to Canaan that are better than Elkins. I believe one of them is run by one of the many Johns that posts on here (JonJon maybe?).

I notice Wintergreen wasn't on your list but if you want to get realtime data for them you can find it HERE. I would stick with NWS for the forecast though.

I have no idea what it takes to get data off of these pages and onto DCSki. I just thought I'd offer the information up in case you were interested.
Scott - DCSki Editor
October 31, 2006
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,139 posts
Hi Murphy,

Unless I get permission, I can only obtain data from the National Weather Service/NOAA, as that data is in the public domain and has no restrictions on use. Sites such as the Weather Underground require their data to be licensed if it will be used for commercial purposes. I was paying AccuWeather over $1,700 a year in licensing fees for a limited weather feed -- you can see why I was motivated to switch! Unfortunately, the NOAA data I needed wasn't available in an easily-parsed format, although NOAA/NWS is taking steps to move more of their data to XML and other more accessible formats (much to the chagrin of companies such as AccuWeather, which is another reason I moved away from AccuWeather -- I was happy to pay them for the value they added, but livid that they were supporting efforts to limit the amount of data the National Weather Service could share with the public -- data that taxpayers paid for.)
fishnski
October 31, 2006
Member since 03/27/2005 🔗
3,530 posts
I use Weatherunderground for thier PWS (Personal weather stations) 3700' pointy knob for canaan & 2880' Greenbank Obs for the Shoe but that isn't high enough in elevation..I just use it for calculations...then there is the Dollysods Cam with real time weather obs(when it is working) Aws can give some good OBS also...They have a good one for 7Springs. Also the Meyer house BB OBS in Davis(the one you mentioned Murphy) Is Good & what ever happened to SS's weather station? That was up & running for awhile...We need some of Bill Brights Weather Obs on MPC!! Thanks for all the Hard work Scott!
Murphy
October 31, 2006
Member since 09/13/2004 🔗
618 posts
That's quite a sweet deal those weather sites have going. Repackage something they get for free and ask $1,700 for it. I deal with that sort of stuff all the time with government contracting. There are lot a sites that will gladly filter through all of the government free site for the info you want...at a price. I guess there's some value in that service but $1,700 does sound steep.

Does Wunderground also charge for data from the Personal Weather Stations? Most of those are privately owned weather stations. In the case of the Greenbanks station, you can also find the data HERE. But it's still at a pretty low elevation to be representative of Snowshoe.
Scott - DCSki Editor
November 7, 2006
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,139 posts
I just noticed the NWS data for current conditions at Snowshoe is reporting "Unknown Precipitation." Which I find amusing. Umm... What does that mean? "Well, something's falling out of the sky, but we can't figure out what it is..."

Yeah, I'm taking things too literally. But I find it funny.
Tucker
November 8, 2006
Member since 03/14/2005 🔗
893 posts
Scott, Sorry dude but this new DC ski Weather sucks...60 degrees in the valley forecasted for tommorroew and friday and no freezing temps for a week atleast...can you turn the thermometer down about 40-60 degrees so we can see some white stuff????
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