One of the great advances in weather observations during the past few years has been the advent of high-definition weather webcams that allows one to enjoy high-resolution views of sky, usually including informative animations. In addition, there has been an explosion of moderate-resolution webcams all over the region and nation that allows one to explore the weather virtually.
My favorite local cam is the SpaceNeedleCam, which affords a high-definition, 360 degree view from the top of the Space Needle, with animations and the ability to go back in time. You can't do better than that! Here are a few samples:
You can use your mouse to rotate around. In the top picture, you see the Olympics, extensive cirrostratus clouds, and contrails. The bottom shows Seattle with Mt. Rainier in the distance. Rapture.
My second favorite site is the SkunkBayWeatherCam, located on the northern Kitsap Peninsula, looking northward. Run by cam-guru Greg Johnson, this website is home to the only triple weather webcam that I know about. What is so wonderful about this site, is you can view the impact of changing weather on the water surface, the sky, and a flag/tree combination in the foreground (see example).
Often, this cam shows auroras, cruise ship passages, and aircraft aloft. Greg is as close to a weather-cam artist as exists and has put together same emotionally moving sequences to music, like one here. His masterpiece (11 minutes long) is found here. The guy is a cam poet. I am trying to convince him to establish a 360 degree capability.
For a more regional view, my favorite is the Washington Department of Transportation WeatherCam site (see below). You can click on cams and see the image on the right. And if you want more cams, you can zoom in using the red box (as shown below).
Oregon DOT has a similar site:
Some private firms are collecting large numbers of weather webcams and making them available on a single website. Perhaps the most extensive is the weathreunderground webcam site, which provides access to thousands of webcam images, including animation (see below). This site is a little awkward
to use and the images are degraded, but it is still very useful. And there are several others, albeit not as comprehensive.
The bottom lines is that there are tens of thousands of cams online today and they serve as a potent tool for exploring the weather.
But no one has really gotten the interface right yet.
I have a lot of ideas if someone want to build an app that would provide a substantially better experience. To do so would require the ability to store thousands of webcam images a day from around the world at full resolution and to determine which ones were bad or during the night. And the interface would allow fluid exploration of the webcams in the chosen area. And it would need a good name, like SkyExplorer, WeatherWindow, or something like that.
Want to get really hi-tech? Use sophisticated image interpretation software to derive quantitative weather information from the images....but that deserves another blog.