Forecast Center Archive


Presented here, courtesy of Taylor & Francis, publishers of Weatherwise Magazine, are archive copies of Tim Vasquez's Forecast Center. This includes the full-size charts that can be sent to your printer and analyzed by hand. Enjoy!

Issue Topic
2001 - July/August A frontal system on the Great Plains.
2001 - September/October Desert Southwest heat lows.
2001 - November/December Northeast U.S. heat wave.
2002 - January/February Cold front in the Great Lakes region.
2002 - March/April Major winter weather system in the Southeast.
2002 - May/June A cold air outbreak into the Midwest.
2002 - July/August Frontal system on the Northern Plains.
2002 - September/October Summertime patterns.
2002 - November/December A tropical storm in the Deep South.
2003 - January/February An eastern U.S. tornado outbreak.
2003 - March/April A Great Lakes weather system.
2003 - May/June Cold front in the southern Plains.
2003 - July/August Springtime weather system on the Plains.
2003 - September/October Monsoon flow in Arizona.
2003 - November/December A hurricane in the Sargasso Sea.
2004 - January/February Eastern United States high pressure.
2004 - March/April Weather in the Pacific Northwest.
2004 - May/June Texas cold front and squall line.
2004 - July/August Midwest heat wave event.
2004 - September/October Alaskan heat wave and wildfires.
2004 - November/December Caribbean Sea hurricane and streamlines.
2005 - January/February Southwest U.S. wintertime system.
2005 - March/April Northern Plains downslope flow.
2005 - May/June Midwest frontal system.
2005 - July/August Southern Plains stagnant front.
2005 - September/October Northern Plains frontal system.
2005 - November/December Gulf of Mexico hurricane.
2006 - January/February A Pacific system in Montana.
2006 - March/April Strong system in the Great Plains.
2006 - May/June Warm front in the Northeast U.S.
2006 - July/August Springtime front in the east U.S.
2006 - September/October The Bermuda High.
2006 - November/December Occluded front in Quebec and the Northeast.
2007 - January/February Polar air incursion in Texas.
2007 - March/April Strong arctic outbreak in the Northern Tier.
2007 - May/June Polar front in Canada.
2007 - July/August A Kansas tornado outbreak.
2007 - September/October Seasonal retreat in Canada.
2007 - November/December Weather down under: Australia.
2008 - January/February A Great Lakes weather system.
2008 - March/April Damaging windstorm in Great Britain.
2008 - May/June Weak frontal system in Pennsylvania.
2008 - July/August Strong front on the Plains.
2008 - September/October Heat wave in the Canadian Arctic.
2008 - November/December Hurricane coming ashore in the Gulf.
2009 - January/February Occluded system in the Pacific Ocean.
2009 - March/April Midwest polar air outbreak.
2009 - May/June Strong weather systems in the Pacific Northwest.
2009 - July/August Great Lakes occluded front.
2009 - September/October Siberia in the summertime.
2009 - November/December Alberta clippers.
2010 - January/February Strong systems in the Pacific Northwest.
2010 - March/April Cold air outbreak in western Europe.
2010 - May/June Appalachian snowstorm.
2010 - July/August A classic tornado outbreak.
2010 - September/October Baked Alaska: summer up north.
2010 - November/December Europe in the fall.
2011 - January/February A Pacific system in the Great Basin region.
2011 - March/April Arctic outbreaks.

Due to standard publisher licensing restrictions, articles beyond this date cannot be posted until a later date.
To get the latest installments of Forecast Center, subscribe to Weatherwise Magazine or purchase articles online.

2011 - May/June Occlusion in the northeast US.
2011 - July/August Southeast US tornado outbreak.
2011 - September/October Central Plains heat wave.
2011 - November/December North Canada during the transition season.
2012 - January/February Bering Sea superstorm.
2012 - March/April Great Britain winter windstorm.

All Forecast Center content is copyright © 2001-2012 Taylor & Francis Group and Tim Vasquez. All rights reserved.

I enjoy Forecast Center. How can I do better?
          There's no better way of learning how to forecast than by by getting your hands dirty. Unfortunately some NWS and many media forecasters take the easy way out by relying on computer models (such as those at UCAR's site). The problem is that models only give a general picture of weather conditions and are not always dependable. Although models are much better than they were thirty years ago, our limited ability to sample the atmosphere brings enough uncertainty into forecasting to make it very much an art form. Consider an accomplished gourmet chef. She doesn't study cookbooks -- she studies ingredients. Her vast understanding of the art of cooking allows her to scrutinize and adapt a recipe on sight, without even turning on the stove. Mastering any art requires these keen abilities: feeling, intuition, and imagination, which can only come from practice. You'll need to feel whether a jet streak might be over a certain data-void region. Your imagination might help you visualize how the atmosphere could be destabilizing in a certain area due to differential advection.
          So what's the best way to get started? Don't simply wait for each Weatherwise issue for a challenge. Practice daily! Every day, print out a weather map that does NOT contain isobars or fronts. Then add those in by hand. Two good resources for getting printable maps with plots-only are UCAR's Weather Page and the software program Digital Atmosphere. For at least 12 hours before you do the map, go on a meteorological "fast" by avoiding all potential solutions, such as the Weather Channel and analyzed web maps. This will keep you from doubting your own work and will give you confidence. You can always look at these sources, including models, after you're done. But keep in mind these sources usually don't do a good job with small-scale features such as drylines and outflow boundaries.
          Once you've finished your weather map, I recommend reading NWS Forecast Discussion messages, available at the IWIN server (simply pick a state then choose Forecast Discussion). Compare the forecaster's thoughts to what you've seen on your map. If the discussions look a bit intimidating, check out my article How to Read a Forecast Discussion. You'll notice that some forecasters only talk about what the models say, while others give a detailed scoop about what the atmosphere is doing. The ones with the detailed scoop will be the most fascinating -- and you can bet those forecasters are the ones who took the time to analyze and sketch out maps on paper.
          When you put pencil to paper and analyze weather maps on a daily basis, I guarantee by the third week you will look back and be astounded by how much you've learned. No, you still won't feel like an expert, but you'll notice that your confusion gives way to scientific interest. You'll begin wondering why that front was so hard to find in the mountains, or why that warm front fizzled like it did. It's these experiences that refine your forecasting skill and give you healthy questions to pursue. This is when you must sharpen your knowledge of meteorological science. Dig into all the weather references you can find (many are below), get on weather E-mail lists, and get answers to your questions. To accurately predict weather you have to understand the science and the art of forecasting. Mastering an art requires you to visualize a form, but mastering a science requires understanding of the underlying form. Scientific knowledge is what allows us to predict weather based on a set of sound principles and techniques, and scientific inquiry is what leads to scientific knowledge. Read, and read more! There's no shortcut.
          Does all this tough work really help? In one of my bookshelves I have a binder nearly 3 inches thick comprised of weather maps I analyzed daily (sometimes 5 times a day) between 1987 and 1989. My grasp of meteorology grew by quantum leaps during this time frame, and I had barely started. Even nowadays when I do consulting work, digging out my colored pencils and analyzing maps helps me bond with the day's weather and gives me a strong sense of satisfaction and confidence. Interestingly the days that I catch myself ignoring analysis maps and looking at models are the days that give me the most trouble.
          For working knowledge on how to forecast, I recommend my 160-page Weather Forecasting Handbook which gives great details on how to analyze and recognize meteorological processes in the atmosphere. This explains the finer points of locating fronts, and shows you how they tie in with jet streams, upper level disturbances, and air masses. You don't have to buy my book, of course... for an alternate selection try Dusan Djuric's Weather Analysis (a bit pricy but indispensable!) Advanced amateurs with enthusiasm and a willingness to travel to Oklahoma may want to consider attending one of the 3-hour workshops at my Weather Forecasting School. This isn't for everyone, but it's a great way to round out your experience.
          Finally, well, there's The Tao of Forecasting. Check it out!
-- Tim Vasquez