The overcast that frequently engulfs the Northeast can be frustrating, and we’re not just talking to photographers and rail enthusiasts. Farmers, resort operators— most people who like to be outdoors—prefer a little sunshine. You can’t change the weather, but at least there is a tool for seeking out clear skies: the NOAA National Digital Forecast Database. And the good news is, it’s FREE, and you don’t have to join or log onto anything.
Once you’re looking at the page, (make sure the GRAPHICAL FORECASTS tab at top is selected— it should be darker blue) move your mouse down to SKY COVER and then right to one of the four time boxes to see conditions for today. Areas of the country covered by clouds show as GRAY. The darker the gray, the thicker the cloud cover. Clear sky areas show as BLUE. The darker the blue, the clearer the sky.
On the SKY COVER line, moving your mouse to the right to the different time boxes can help determine weather front movement direction and speed. It’s great to confirm what you already knew, but how about a forecast for the upcoming days? Just move your mouse to the upper left corner and select the time period for one of the next seven days. Keep in mind that the farther ahead the forecast, the lower its potential accuracy,but the graphics should provide a fairly accurate assessment for the next day or two. Since this is a government (non-commercial) site, it is not under pressure to “game” the weather for advertisers or broadcasters.
The NOAA National Digital Forecast Database can also show you when an hour or two drive west(or north or south) can deliver you to precious sunshine. If you have a lap-top with Wi-Fi or internet connectivity, this can be a valuable tool when on the road on a railfan trip.Good luck with this weather tool finding an elusive day of sunshine!