Jan 232011

For some time now I’ve thought about and spoken of a new way for Skywarn nets to gather and report their information. Most NCOs (Net Control Operators) simply use a pencil and paper to take check-ins, reports and locations changes. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing more reliable than a piece of lead, some paper, and a battery powered radio. After all, when all else fails… amateur radio!

Reliability is the strongest foundation a service to the public can have and the Skywarn program is top of the class in that respect. However, when building a house, you do not build a strong foundation and then precede to spend your days in the basement, unless of course that’s where your shack is! As such, I think it’s important that we try to augment our foundation with as many effective tools as possible so we can do what we’ve volunteered to do, save property and lives.

This new tool, what I’m calling the KWiXS Skywarn Reporter, will allow NCOs to log check-ins, reports, and location changes into an online interface that is capable of relaying that information to anyone else logged into the system. This could be emergency managers, NWS employees, other Skywarn members, or any other authorized person. The goal of the software is to create paths along which information can flow freely with high availability. Communities that are downwind of a storm system can get even more lead time by getting alerts of reports that have been entered into the system. There will not however be a method for real-time chatting, there’s NWSChat for that, or you can always use RF if it’s urgent.

One of the key features is integration of the data into a Google Maps interface. With GMaps a user will be able to quickly see reports, county conditions (green, yellow, or red), and the location of the storm using NEXRAD radar data. There’s also the possibility of integrating APRS data so spotter’s out in the field can have their location tracked. There are many other potential features, but that’s where I put the call out to all hams, skywarn spotters, emergency managers, and NWS employees. I want to know what else could be implemented to provide the most effective tool. It’s not likely everyone will be appeased, and there will most certainly be those who want to stick to the RF way of doing things, and that’s OK. This system will never be meant to replace what trained Skywarn spotters do, nor what ham radio does for Skywarn, it’s merely there to augment the system and improve upon our mission, saving property and lives.

I have this wonderful piece of software envisioned in my mind, but I wanted to share that vision, to allow it be modified and grown into something used not just by our Skywarn program (in Wayne County), but across the country. I welcome any suggestions or comments and will most certainly welcome any programming support. It has only taken a few paragraphs to describe how the system will work from a high level, but it’s actually quite complicated to make sure all the moving parts play nice together. The more help, the better the software!

You can post your comments, ideas, suggestions, complaints or any other thoughts to this blog post, or email me directly at w8fi [at] kritikal [dot] com.

Apr 072010

I’ve gone ahead and removed the unused model that was discontinued last year and added the GEFS and SREF models. I’ve also discovered why some of the valid dates will not stay the same when you hold down ‘shift’ when changing model runs. I’ll have to create a new property for the model that holds how far apart the model runs are from one another, rather than simply using the next hour in the run.

As always, you can check out the latest version at http://www.kwixs.net/ncep/

Apr 062009

I’ve gone ahead and updated the code to support templated image URLs. This makes for supporting a wider range of image sources much easier. This also means that it will be supporting more than just NCEP images, so the name and location will be changing soon. I may leave the NCEP version up just for those images on NCEP.

Because of the possible sources for images, I’ll be creating a new interface so you can add/remove any source you want from the viewer. I doubt those in the Plains will really want the DTX WRF runs.

And that’s the other addition to this version, the DTX WRF Hemispheric resolution runs are now available. Currently it only supports the latest run, so there’s no way to look at the previous run and the current, but new version are being worked on by DTX so stay tuned on that front. I may also incorporate some sort of archiving locally so I can support this feature even if DTX does not.

As always, let me know if there are any bugs or additions you’d like to see.

Feb 082009

I’ve gone ahead and added support for image links so you can share the images more easily. An idea is to allow the user to cache the image to the server so that they can get it later and will last longer than 24 hours, when the next day’s run is done.

I’ve also made the menu smaller so that more image fits on the screen. I may change this back but for now it works.

I’m also looking into making the script aware of the model runs’ start and stop times. I’m not sure if I want to do this for each image, assume an integral of time for each image to finish or simply wait until the whole run is complete (which would still be an assumption). The benefit to this is allowing the user to change model runs that are a day behind and still keep the valid date the same. Right now this only works with runs of the same day where if you do this to a run of the previous day you will be behind 24 hours.

Of course, if I start using the server-side for this then all is moot since I’ll be able to check the modified-date on the image itself. This would also be a good time to start thinking about caching the images to relieve the strain on the NCEP servers.

Feb 032009

It came to my attention that the viewer was not working in IE7. From what I can tell, the options property of SELECT elements, does not mean all the OPTION tags below the SELECT. Instead, it’s a collection of that SELECTS properties.

In any case, I changed how I was getting the collection of OPTION tags and all was well. IE7 is now working.

Feb 012009

I’ve whipped up little JavaScript based viewer for the weather forecast models provided by the NCEP (National Centers for Environmental Prediction). It’s primary benefit is that you can use the keyboard to change various aspects of what you’re looking at.

It’s on my KWiXS playground so things may come and go on it. I’ll release a finished version in a few weeks when I get some time to find the bugs.

Take a look and feel free to comment here on what you’d like to see fixed, changed, or added.