Weather Wise

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The Independent Online
IF YOU are planning a weekend trip to Nyiregyhaza in Hungary, or perhaps to Bamako in Mali, or maybe to Bahias De Huatulco in Mexico, and don't know what to pack, help is at hand.

Incredibly detailed weather information is available for these places and thousands of other towns and cities all over the world at the University of Michigan's WeatherNet site on the World Wide Web (http://cirrus.sprl.umich.edu/wxnet/).

Rather than relying on agency weather report tables and forecasts in the papers, which are always at least a day out of date and usually only cover capital cities, WeatherNet's link to the Weather Underground service gives details of temperature, precipitation and a brief five-day forecast. (For Nyiregyhaza, a warm sweater and gloves would be in order, for Bamako, take some sunscreen and a hat - it is due to hit 38C over the weekend.Bahias De Huatulco should be warm and sunny))

The Weather Underground sites are comprehensive - details are sometimes not available from some of the more remote parts of Africa and South America, and from war zones, but for the holidaymaker or business traveller this is an invaluable resource. It isn't always 100 per cent accurate. Last week, keen to find out how the windswept inhabitants of Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, were faring, I was surprised to see that they would be basking in an unlikely 21C. I think perhaps a decimal point was missing here.

There is plenty to keep weather enthusiasts happy too on the main WeatherNet site, the best weather resource I have yet found on the Net. There is a link to a beautiful colour map of the world showing current sea temperatures, that would make a nice picture if you have a decent colour printer on which to reproduce it. The warm waters of the east Pacific associated with the current El Nino can be clearly seen glowing red among the oranges, yellows and blues. The origin of weather names and terms is explained, including a full catalogue of all the tropical storms and their names for the last two decades. So you discover that while the hurricanes that plague the eastern seaboard of the United States have good wholesome American names (Brett, Wayne, Wilma, Marilyn and Bonnie), the Australian tropical storms read like the cast list of Neighbours (Kirrily, Ned, Vivienne, Willy and Bessie). There are also links to the hundreds of on-line camera sites all over the world, so if you don't trust the forecast, then you can always see for yourself what the sky is up to. Skiers are well catered for - although the almost ridiculously detailed information and forecasts only apply to American and Canadian resorts. For European ski information on the Web try the America On-Line site at http://members.aol.com/Hildrethjr/skiing/world.html, though be prepared to weigh through a lot of PR puff and travelogue photos to get to the hard and fast information.

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