A new free online mountain weather service has recently been launched - and this one's a little different.
Anyone heading to the Scottish hills already has a choice of mountain-specific online forecasts from the likes of MWIS and the Met Office, but the new service provided by MyWeather2.com [no we hadn't heard of them either, Ed.] looks to offer an unmatched level of detail. But is it actually any better than the existing forecasts?
The Hill and Mountain Weather section of the site provides a week's worth of forecasts specific to each of the 282 Scottish Munros, at three-hour intervals. For each hill there's a forecast for the base and another for the summit, with the data clearly presented on a simple table. There's minimal written content in the predictions - you just get the raw info on everything from wind speed and percentage of cloud cover to freezing level and levels of precipitation. It's up to you to image what this will all feel like on a particular hill on a given day.
The service certainly looks the part, but predicting mountain weather is a complicated business, and who can really say how much cloud there'll be on A' Bhuidheanach Bheag seven days hence? So is it any good?
At UKH and UKC we've not yet had a chance to put it to the test, and any consensus on its accuracy is going to take time to establish in any case. Meanwhile to shed a bit of light on this service we asked MyWeather2 [what happened to 1?] to explain a bit about themselves:
'Our meteorologists have many years of experience forecasting for mountain sites' company representative Senya Ryazanov told us.
'We feel that we have created a service which combines excellent accuracy with [frequent] daily updates meaning that users can keep abreast of rapidly changing weather situations. No forecast can claim 100% accuracy. However, we are confident that our forecasts are amongst the best currently available on the web.'
The company does have an established track record in this sot of forecasting elsewhere in the world:
'We offer our Mountain Forecast services for global locations. In fact we provide a unique service whereby our website visitors can request we add a new Mountain location into our model. We will then create this new location and add it onto our website. To do this simply go here and enter the [relevant] details.'
So what are their sources of data, and what sort of modelling does the service use?
'We currently use the US National Weather Service raw data as input into our own models to fine tune the results' said Ryazanov.
'The raw data is processed four times a day and updated on our site as soon as it is available. Some of the techniques we use in our modelling are proprietary and help us to provide what we believe to be amongst the highest quality of forecasts available. Please try it and see - and give us your constructive feedback - we are continually looking for ways to improve our models and your feedback is invaluable.'
State funding supports the work of MWIS and the Met Office, and the free weather forecasts that they provide. But who are these new guys, and how can they afford to offer a free service?
'[The website] www.myweather2.com is under the ownership of Weather2 ltd, which was 'born' in Scotland over 10 years ago but has now grown up with offices in Glasgow, Aberdeen, London and Zagreb' Ryazanov explained.
'We can provide this service for free to consumers [because] we distribute our content to many major publishers as part of a paid for service.'
Now if they could just promise sunshine for the next four months...