12 Mar 2014

A meteorological world without the world wide web?!

As a teenager in the mid-90s, I remember going on a school trip to a future technology show that was touring around the UK. Its aim was to raise awareness and inspire young people to embrace the then yet-to-happen digital age.

For someone who was born in the 80s, I had grown up in the era when computers were rapidly becoming more affordable and finally finding a place in our homes, so I was quite excited to go along.

All of the tech and comms companies you would expect to see at the roadshow were there – some still going strong, others faded out of existence. 


I sat down and watched a 45 minute presentation on what the internet was and how it was expected to become a major part of all our lives within the next 5-10 years.

Movies on demand, online banking, super-fast internet, video conferencing, hundreds of digital TV channels – all things that seemed out of this world at the time.

Nevertheless, since then, most of the predictions have come true, sometimes making it difficult to remember how we did many things before the internet existed.

I think that one of the best things about the internet is how easy it has made communication and access to information. Things that would have taken hours, days or may not have been possible at all, are now taken for granted.

cloud_wires_g_wpHaving been interested in weather from a young age, the internet was such a great tool in allowing me to gain access to things that would simply have been inaccessible otherwise.

Weather computer model data, observations, satellite images, discussion forums – all there and free to access. It gave me the power to read more, learn more and become even more interested in a topic that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The meteorological world has benefited hugely from the existence of the internet. Its growing capacity to store and transmit huge volumes of data means that professionals and amateurs can reap the rewards.

Social-media has been a big gain for the weather community. Despite good coverage, weather observation stations are only located at a limited number of places.

The advent of Twitter and Facebook has enabled everyone to contribute to the weather story, sharing pictures, reports and videos – giving an insight into what is happening at times of severe weather.

twitter_thoughts_g_wpSuch contributions fill in the gaps in places where weather stations aren’t present and allow us weather folk to have a fuller picture as to what is happening on the ground.

The internet has also made it much easier to deliver useful weather information. In the days when the only real output for weather forecasts was television and radio, there were only a few opportunities each day to get the necessary information out there.

These days, the internet allows weather to live a 24×7 existence, with blogs, social media and RSS feeds streaming out a plethora of information that would never had fitted in a two minute broadcast.

You only have to look at the popularity of hashtags such as #uksnow and #ukstorm on Twitter to see how inclusive the internet has become, enabling everyone to get a slice of the weather action.

With technology ploughing ahead so rapidly, it’s hard to imagine what new and exciting things the internet will bring to the weather world in the next decade.

Although, hopefully, it won’t be able to deliver you a weather forecast with a virtual weather man anytime soon!

What would the world be like without the web? Tell Channel 4 News your view.


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