Devin's Blog

Google Public Alerts: An Effective Weather Communication Tool

Winter 2017 is certainly picking up in intensity across New England. After a strong storm brought 12-18" of snow and 4+ hours of blizzard conditions to much of Massachusetts, another storm is is expected to drop 1-2 more feet of snow from northeast Mass to much of the Maine coast Sunday through Monday night. Then there's a chance at yet another storm later in the week. The National Weather Service posted Winter Storm Watches for MA/NH/ME Friday afternoon, then on Saturday afternoon about 4:30 PM, upgraded the watches to Winter Storm Warnings (as expected) and issued Blizzard Watches along the immediate coastline. Winter storm warnings are now in effect for all in pink. Blizzard watches from Maine to Nantucket. https://t.co/GIDW3xJABI #nh1news pic.twitter.com/TsBsw5g8Sx— Ryan Breton (@RyanBretonWX) February 11, 2017 In 2017, there are many ways to get notified of these warnings, from the traditional local TV broadcast, to apps by major weather providers, to variable message signs along highways. Each of these can contain varying amounts of information. Obviously a highway sign conveys much less information than a human speaking with graphics behind them. One solution I'm a big fan of...


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Weather Model Deep-Dive: Surface Pressure Artifacting

In my group at The Weather Company, speed is of the utmost importance. We serve traders in the energy markets, so getting our customers weather data faster enables them to in turn make decisions faster than their competitors on the trade floor. One of our major products is plotting weather model data on maps from all the major global weather models. One of these is the Global Forecasting System (or GFS) model, run by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) within the United States government. NCEP offers GFS model data for download in a handful of different spatial resolutions. As a result of the speed requirements in our products, our site offers graphics produced with the lowest (that is, coarsest) resolution data since that data will be available and process significantly faster than the full resolution data. We also produce maps made with this full resolution data, though, so that clients can see the finer details of this weather model output. This background sets the stage for a situation I was tasked to explain earlier today. Hurricane Matthew is currently churning in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and is expected to make impact as a major hurricane to...


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Super Simple Node.js Continuous Deployment using SaltStack and systemd

I'm a big fan of the SaltStack configuration management system. It's an extremely flexible and powerful system, but is also quite easy to use. When I initially set up this new release of this website, I had done most of the configuration manually. Not that it's a particularly complex operation, two Node apps and nginx proxying those sites. I used forever to keep those two sites running. Since that initial deploy, I've gained more exposure to the systemd platform (and learned that just calling it an init system is probably a good way to get called out online). Despite the criticism it receives, I think that as an init system, it is a great improvement over previous systems like Upstart. In fact, when it comes to defining new services, I think it shares the same adjectives I used to describe SaltStack in the opening sentence of this post - flexible, powerful, and easy to use! Besides easy creation and management of services, running Node apps via systemd offers some other benefits, like powerful integrated logging via journald and a simple-to-use dependency system (so you can ensure your Redis database is running when your web app goes to start). This article...


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under saltstack

Building an Interactive Drought Relief Map

Quick Links: Project Website | Source Code on Github I recently published an interactive map that shows the current US Drought Monitor levels and the 5-day National Weather Service Quantified Precipitation Forecast (QPF). As stated on the site, "by overlaying these two datasets, you can analyze where drought conditions may improve or worsen over the next 5 days." Background As of Sept. 8, 2016, all of Massachusetts was under some level of drought or dryness There were two primary reasons that led to the creation of this site. The first is that I had been reading about the Mapbox GL JS framework and wanted some sort of project I could build using it. Secondly, living in eastern Massachusetts, I was well aware of the worsening drought that has gripped the state for effectively the past 2 years. While attending a Maptime Boston meetup back in July where there was a discussion about intersecting and overlaying different datasets, I came up with the idea to create this product. Technical Details The US National Weather Service provides a significant cache of its products in common geographic formats. They provide their QPF formats in both Shapefile/KML (vector) and GRIB2 (raster) formats, so it's...


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Welcome to the new thecloudonline.net!

As seems to always be the case when it comes to my personal website, it was a bit of a journey to get to this newly-relaunched site. Real life gets complicated - there are certainly many days when after spending a full workday solving programming problems, there's just not much energy to jump right back into "creation" mode. Whether that means designing the site or blogging. Hopefully I can at least make more of an effort on the latter part going forward now that the programming work is mostly settled! I've owned thecloudonline.net since 2010 (right before graduating high school) but have maintained a site under that "name" since a few years before that. The original site featured an actual weekly forecast page I would write for my hometown, in addition to weather related articles (relevant for high schoolers, like "Are we going to get a snow day?"). In 2010, I relaunched the site and dropped the forecast section (I did link to the new home for my forecasts, the Penn State Campus Weather Service. I wrote a handful of articles over the years about different, mostly weather-related, topics which have been "reprinted" here. As I'm now into my...


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