Cork Harbour Weather version 2. New Horizons...
The latest Cork Harbour Weather Cam image is available here for the next while.
The Journey we've made together and where I now have to go...
In late 2004 when I started putting data about Cork Harbour's weather online, it was simply so I could know what the weather was doing at home while I was travelling abroad for work.
Over time as I tried to get a better picture of what was happening, I realised I had something of an unsatisfactory situation on my hands. I had only three point sources of recent weather data for Cork Harbour; my home station and the two local synoptic stations operated by the Irish national weather service - Met Eireann - at Roches Point and Cork Airport. Those synoptic stations were only reporting publically at hourly intervals. I had no data sources for any other Cork Harbour locations nor for times in between when those stations reported. Secondly, where forecasts were concerned I only had the "meso-scale" weather forecasts being produced by a number of sources like Met Eireann. These weren't particularly accurate when drilled down to the level of Cork Harbour; their spatial and time resolution weren't good enough for what I wanted.
Cork Harbour is the second largest natural harbour in the World, a busy port & maritime leisure centre and home to Ireland's second largest city... It struck me as rather strange that weather information for Cork Harbour was so sparse. And so in a completely unplanned and largely unconscious act, Cork Harbour Weather came into being - an experiment to see if (a) I could capture the current weather conditions across Cork Harbour more completely i.e. more frequently and with greater spatial resolution than was the case heretofore and (b) whether I could localise forecasts to make them more relevant and accurate for the Cork Harbour area. In the intervening decade and a bit, I've had some success on both fronts.
In relation to monitoring current conditions, over the years Cork Harbour Weather has brought together a network of almost 30 local weather stations, gathering, aggregating and sharing their data and using it to improve local forecasts. Working with the Halpin Centre, National Maritime College of Ireland research team, a new cost-effective weather station hardware solution has been developed that I hope will see widespread deployment over the next few years. Also with the Halpin Centre, there is now an experimental high resolution localised Cork Harbour weather radar system operating. Information from that system will be publically available soon - watch this space.
In terms of forecasting, Cork Harbour Weather has become something of a go-to source for "Corkonians" (those who live, work and play in the Cork metropolitan and Harbour area) for localised weather forecasts. Cork Harbour Weather's localisation of national and regional forecasts has been a central activity and in much demand from end users. Since 2010, no significant weather event that's come Cork's way has escaped Cork Harbour Weather's forecast localisation treatment.
Along the way, Cork Harbour Weather has gathered a user community who for different reasons found what I was doing useful. Today that community is many thousands strong; Cork Harbour Weather's current Twitter followers number over 7,500. I never intended any of this to have an audience, it just happened. In the 15 years that Cork Harbour Weather has existed, that community has also become something really quite special. To each and every one of you - thanks for your interest, thanks for your support, thanks for your understanding and most of all thank your for helping to create and to build something that's become a very speical part of my life.
In recent years, three issues have however emerged that I can no longer ignore. The first is that the technical platform that I've built in a largely ad-hoc manner across the years, has become unmanageable. I just can't keep on top of the maintenance any longer. The costs in terms of hardware, energy and the time required on the software side are not sustainable. Secondly, the "service" element i.e. keeping everyone informed when a weather event is in progress has become very difficult. #stormOphelia and #stormEmma (the first a life-threatening event, the second a prolonged and quite peculiar event that required sustained intervention) were game changers for me. They were the busiest ever periods for Cork Harbour Weather and to be honest made me realise I couldn't keep going the way I've been. Something has to change on the service provision side as I can't do it on my own any longer, at least not without significant changes to how it all works. Lastly, it's become clear that a much more formal (read scientifically rigorous and thorough) consideration of the subject of localised weather monitoring and forecasting is warranted.
Some of you will probably have noticed that over the last year I've been rather quiet. That was because I was giving alot of thought about what to do. I've now decided that the project will continue, however for the above reasons the project will be fundamentally reconfigured. That's the work I've just now begun. As a consequence of this complete redevelopment, there will inevitably be disruption and there will be many changes. Cork Harbour Weather will be very different by the time I'm done. When will that be? Who knows. What will it be like? I've obviously got a pretty good idea about that (though I've not got all the answers by a long way!) but I'm not going to set it all out here just now. The purpose of this article is first and foremost to tell you change is here and also to invite you to continue on the journey with me - I'll be documenting everything as I go and I will be taking each building block live as it's ready. You'll be able to see for yourself what's happening and how it's shaping up. I hope the results will be even more useful to you than what's gone before. Keep an eye on this page and on social media (@CorkHarbourWx on Twitter, Cork Harbour Weather on Facebook and corkharbourwx on Instagram) to keep up to speed on what's happening...
Finally, it seems a good time to remind everyone that Cork Harbour Weather is and always will be an experiment, it is not an operational weather service. As the name suggests, it only looks at the weather for the Cork metropolitan and Harbour area. It's entirely voluntary, is managed and undertaken largely by one individual and is funded solely by that individual. It's an effort driven by curiousity, by a desire to understand and to learn. Thanks for your company up to now, I look forward to continuing the conversation with you all.
Cormac, aka Cork Harbour Weather.
Cobh. 6th October 2019.