Help with forecasts and weather maps will be found below. You may also find more information about upcoming weather classes offered by MountainWeather by going to the Weather Courses and Training page.
Understanding the Forecast
First and foremost, weather forecasts are "guidance", not "gospel". Especially when using a weather forecast to plan your outdoor pursuits, you should consider adopting the words of a wise old mountain guide, "The weather that you see always trumps what the forecast says".
A forecast is essentially an expression of uncertainty. The more uncertain terminology that is used, such as, "chance of", "possible", or "likely", the more unsure the forecaster is about what is going to actually transpire with the weather in the future.
There are three basic types of satellite photos that are commonly viewed, Infra-red, Water Vapor, and Visible. Each of these will be explained in more detail. All of these satellites are generated from the same orbiting satellites in space. These are called "geostationary" satellites because they remain staionary over a certain latitide, so they are always "photographing" the same section of the globe. It takes several of these satellites to cover th entire Earth.
There are also three main Radar products that are commonly viewed on the internet, Preciptation-type, Base Reflectivity, and Composite Reflectivity. Each of these will be explained in more detail.
Surface Weather Maps
These maps are charts of the current weather features over large areas, synoptic scale it is called, like all of North America, or just the USA, or just Canada, for instance. They usually show the locations of fronts, high and low pressure centers, and some will also plot surface observations from a selection of airport weather instruments.
More content to be added in the near future. Check back periodically for more info.