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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 07/22/2008

Rate a Radar

Severe Thunderstorm Watch in Effect until 4 p.m. east of the Chesapeake Bay. See earlier post for more info and radar.

Of all the tools in the weather tool box, I bet radar ranks as the most useful for anyone who has a stake in the weather. The ability to see where precipitation is, its form (i.e. rain, snow, or mix), its intensity, how fast it's moving, and its characteristics (e.g. for thunderstorms, are they rotating, do they contain hail?) is critical. So all of us doppler devotees should be delighted about all of the new bells and whistles emerging on the new generation radar displays on the web. Let me take you on a brief tour of some of the different radars, then I'd like you to vote for your favorite...

Keep reading for the radar safari. See our full forecast for the rainy outlook.

Fox HD Radar: The Fox "high definition" radar allows you to pan, zoom, alter transparency and overlay satellite imagery and temperatures over a Google map. Its best feature may be its "Storm Tracker" which allows you to overlay current watches and warnings, Storm Prediction Center risk categories, and, at the same time, click on individual storms to obtain information about storm motion, the possibility of hail, etc. The one problem I noticed with this radar is that as you zoom in, the radar echoes become blurry and pixelated. Its "interactive weather map", like the Fox display, displays radar and satellite imagery and allows you to zoom and pan. It's a bit more feature-loaded than the Fox radar, as it also allows you to display a range of weather metrics such as dewpoints, wind, and past precipitation in addition to temperature. Another really nice feature is the ability to plot golf courses, parks, schools, airports, and sporting venues on the maps so you can see exactly where the precipitation is in relation to these landmarks. Similar to the Fox radar, the radar tends to become blurry as you zoom in.

My Weather LLC (Example in link is from Zoom out and pan for the radar view over D.C.): My Weather produces a radar product for the web very similar to Fox and The Weather Channel. It uses Flash technology to allow you to pan, zoom and alter transparency and uses Microsoft Visual Earth for its base maps. At the moment, while the interface allows you to view satellite imagery, you can not overlay other weather data or landmarks. However, it does have a very cool "Storm Cells" feature enabling you to click on different storms and obtain information about storm characteristics (e.g. the likelihood of hail and strong winds). Also, when you mouse over the storms, it displays an arrow which shows the direction the storm is moving and when it will reach certain locations. Unlike the and Fox radars, when you zoom in with this radar, the echoes do not become blurry and pixelated but remain smooth all the way to the street level.

Weather Underground: Wunderground has developed the wundermap which has similar zooming, panning and transparency options as all of the others. When you zoom down to the street level, the radar echoes are smoothed, but not as elegantly as the My Weather radar. One of the best features of this radar is the weather station overlay which displays local neighborhood temperatures and additional weather information when you click on the station. Additional overlays include model data, warnings and hurricane information. Noticeably missing though is the information about individual storms and storm motion available on its very popular non-Flash radar.

Explore these radars by panning over storm areas, zooming in and out and experimenting with the different features. Then respond to these poll questions...

Last but not least, comment with what your preferred local radar choice is at the moment.

By  |  11:30 AM ET, 07/22/2008

Categories:  Technology

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