It’s getting cold, even here in New Mexico. It’s also dark before I get home from work, which is a tad depressing.
But fear not, because those endless Election Day commercials are about to give way to endless Christmas gift commercials. It’s time to start shopping, and if you’re here at Wildcard Weather that means either you are a weather nerd or there is a weather nerd on your list. Last August I told you about the Nike Weatherman Air Force Ones and I was able to see just how often people search “weatherman christmas gift”, “meteorologist gift idea”, and “weather nerd christmas” during the Christmas shopping season. It’s obvious that a lot of you are looking for good gift ideas, and most of the stuff out there is just terrible. So today I am going to present to you a few great gift ideas for weather enthusiasts, all from the mind of a real meteorologist.
A One Year Subscription to a Premium Weather Service
Over the years as a meteorologist I have paid for subscriptions to two premium weather services, WeatherTAP and WeatherBELL Premium. While their names are very similar, what they offer could not be more different.
- WeatherTAP is all about viewing current and detailed radar and satellite data. Got a line of thunderstorms coming in and tiny NWS images and blobby WunderMap images just not cutting it? That’s where WeatherTap comes in. The new RadarLab HD+ will provide the most crisp, high-definition radar images you will ever see. Back when I was an undergrad I loved taking beautiful screenshots of severe thunderstorms approaching Boston and post it on Facebook. The land surface is HD, the radar is HD, the satellite images are HD. RadarLab also shows predicted storm tracks and current damage reports. You can see small-scale features on Radar Lab that I just haven’t been able to see on any other viewing platform. WeatherTap also offers lightning data, severe weather alerts, and some model data. The model data however, is nothing you couldn’t find for free if you really wanted you. WeatherTAP is the perfect gift for that someone on your list who is ALWAYS watching radar. It costs $7.95/month or $83.95/year. There is also a 14-day free trial available. http://www.weathertap.com/
- WeatherBELL Premium is what I use to view all of my favorite weather model data, specifically the ECMWF (or Euro) mid-range model. To those unfamiliar, the ECMWF is currently the world’s most accurate mid-range model (mid-range meaning the next week, not the next 24 hours or month). Unfortunately it not free to view like its American equivalent, the Global Forecast System (GFS). That sends thousands of ardent weather nerds to sites like WeatherBell, where an entire suite of model data. These include global models like the GFS, EURO, Canadian, and NAVYGEM and smaller-scale (mesoscale), high definition models like the WRF, NAM Mesoscale, and GFDL. There are even long-range models available for those who like to study global patterns like ENSO-El Nino. If you want model data, WeatherBELL has it, and the display and interface is easy to use. It has become the only place I go to for model data. I would suggest WeatherBell was the very learned weather enthusiast, one who is already in school or has been studying weather for some time. The cost is $185/year. http://www.weatherbell.com/
Backyard Weather Station
A subscription not your style? Need something you can wrap? I have plenty of ideas for you there too. First lets get the obvious one out of the way: a backyard weather station. There are so, so many out there and prices can run from the tens to the thousands. You will need to gauge your budget based on your weather enthusiasts age and level of interest. The one I keep outside on my porch is on the simpler side, but its been reliable since I installed it and I would give it a generally good review. It is the AcuRite 00634 Digital Weather Station. It provides temperature, dew point, barometric pressure, and wind speed from an outside sensor and temperature and dewpoint with the indoor display. Neither drains batteries too quickly and most of the sensors have performed well. The only exception is the pressure sensor: while it seems to record pressure changes well, it never adjusted to Albuquerque’s altitude. The average surface pressure here is close to 840 mbar but the Acurite still shows values around 1000.
The price of the AcuRite is typically around $80. This is probably a good price to pay for the casual weather enthusiast. More expensive stations can also give wind direction, archive long-term data, and post directly to social media! Weathershack.com has a lot of great options.
340 amazing images! Hail, mammatus clouds, and lots and lots of tornadoes! Mike Hollingshead and Eric Nguyen have created a great coffee table book for the weather nerd. Paperback versions go for around $20 and hardcover around $80. The images are truly amazing. If you’re looking for a book for reading, try Tornado Hunter by Stefan Bechtel and the late Tim Samaras. And as I’ve suggested before, there’s The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney.
Have a weather fan on your list that always like to tell you how stuff works? A Galileo thermometer is an interesting, tasteful addition to a family room, bedroom or study. The thermometer is a sealed, glass tube filled with glass spheres. Each sphere contains a different colored liquid and has a metal labeling tag hanging from it. The tags display different temperature levels and act as counterweights for the glass bubbles. As the temperature in the room changes, the density of the water changes with it. As the density of the water changes, the bubbles can either gain or lose buoyancy, and they do this are very specific temperatures.
For a full explanation, go to http://science.howstuffworks.com/question663.htm. Even if you don’t fully understand them, its hard to deny how beautiful they are. They typically cost between $20 and $40 and look good everywhere.
The Perfect Gift idea! Present someone with everything they’ll need to conduct a weather balloon launch.
One of my first posts on this blog was about weather balloons. I discussed a weather balloon project I had attempted (unsuccessfully) based off of MIT’s Project Icarus. The project, which you can find at http://space.1337arts.com/, shows how you can send a digital camera up with a weather balloon and get images of the upper atmosphere! The budget for this project is $150 and involves items like a throwaway Walmart cell phone, a styrofoam cooler, and a model rocket parachute. The most expensive item is the helium, a tank of which you will have to rent from a party supply store on the day of launch.
If you are the parent of a weather enthusiast, this is probably one of the coolest projects you could ever you with your child. Just one word of warning: don’t launch to close to the East Coast! The balloon will carry miles to the east and mine landed in the Atlantic. And you don’t have to be as ambitious as Project Icarus, you can buy a much smaller weather balloon and the camera will not go as high, meaning it won’t travel as far.
I hope these are some good ideas for you holiday shopping list. Pay attention to the Twitter feed @wildcardweather for more good ideas. Happy Holidays!