One of the necessary tools a night (or landscape) photographer must have in their tool bag is a decent weather forecasting tool. Though I’ve been known to ignore the forecast for some events, like the Annular Solar Eclipse on Sunday, May 20th, I definitely am more inclined to go where the weather is clearer (Nevada) than where it will be cloudy (Crescent City, CA).
A forecast like this despite how detailed it seems to be is all but useless to me:
After all how partly is partly cloudy and how clear is clear? Besides, knowing how sunny it is during the day does not help me plan for the night, or sunrise for that matter. Indeed, the above is from Wunderground.com and shows “Clear” on Sunday, but when you dig down, well it ain’t so sunny after all – see below.
NOAA to the Rescue (no Ark)
Fortunately the US National Weather Service provides a nicely detailed “click point” forecast with charts of the hour-by-hour conditions.
There is quite a lot to take in here but it’s all good stuff.
Where do you find this great tool. Start here:
Once you get to the forecast, look for a link named : Hourly Weather Graph. It will be text only and cleverly hidden down and off the page where only a geek will find it. But that, my friend, is where the good stuff is. Before you rush off on the hourly thing, though, take a look at the little map window. You can get a forecast for any specific area by clicking! Here I started by searching for San Jose, CA, but then clicked on Los Gatos. If you’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay area you know that the temperature can be four, eight or ten degrees different in just 8 miles or so!
Another tool I frequently use is the OLD WeatherUnderground. At Weather Underground they apparently decided that the most useful page was “too busy” and you have to go to “Wunderground Classic”.
A portion of a day looks like this. Note this is a portion of the same day that is marked “Clear” in the simple forecast shown earlier. Apparently it’s clear only at 2 am!
Good luck on your prognostication.
May the wind not be at your back or in your face, may the road not be muddied by rain and may the clouds gather only when you really want them i.e. at sunrise and sunset.