Playing With Weather: A New AWC Website

By Scott Spangler on August 21st, 2023

Like many aviators, I’m a weather geek. The internet has sustained this addiction, and since 2002, The National Weather Services Aviation Weather Center has been the one weather product I cannot do without. And it will become more potent next month when the new, improved, and more powerful and informative AWC goes live.

If you want a taste of what’s to come, go here, Aviation Weather Center Experimental. If you don’t have several hours of uncommitted time to explore on you own, watch these YouTubes first: the 3-minute 16-second AWC Beta GFA (Graphical Forecasts for Aviation) Tutorial and the 46-minute 27-second Aviation Weather Center Beta Website Webinar.

Created in what is now our connected world’s dark ages, the original AWC was designed for personal computers, their displays, and connections that barely crawl by today’s standards. Today, most pilots, it seems, seek out aviation information on devices, so the new AWC has been designed for phones and tablets, and the pages automatically adjust to their different sizes. It works equally well on those of us who use a PC to feed our weather habit.

Employing consistent design, there are menu bars on every page, fall-down menus for Weather, Products, Tools, and Connect. To the right are the email link, the log-in link, and the question mark help link. You do not need to create an account, but if you do, it allows you to contribute a pilot report , or Pirep, from almost any page, and since most aviators will be connecting to AWC through their devices, making such reports is a step beyond altruism.

The Weather tab offers Observations and Forecast Ceiling & Visibility, Clouds, Precipitation, Thunderstorms, Temperatures, Turbulence, and Icing. And on the appropriate pages, such as Winds, a slider bar on the left margin changes the altitude and the slider across the bottom changes the time. The altitudes, in mean sea level, go from the surface to Flight Level 480. Click the helicopter icon in the upper right corner that displays the Low Altitude Mode, and the slider ranges from the surface to 5,000 feet above ground level. Slick!

The Products menu is your direct connection to every aspect of aviation weather, from Sigmets and Airmets to METAR, TAF, Pireps, Prog Charts, and all the rest. Tools connects you to dashboards for Terminal and Winter Weather as well as a Traffic Flow Management Portal. One of the neatest tools is the Archive View that lets you recall weather for a specific day and time.

The Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA) box on the opening page is the link to all the interactive maps of aviation forecasts and observations. And if you cannot remember what any of the depicted symbols mean, clicking the circled-I in the lower right corner will pop up an explanatory legend. The Decision Support Services (DSS) contains static images such as three levels of SigWx, Turbulence, and Prog Charts.

And that’s not all! You can select any combination of information layers with buttons on the right-hand side of the applicable GFA pages. You can choose a base map, a hirez satellite view, VFR sectional view, or IFR chart, which allows you to control the display of Jet routes and Airways. And you can draw your flight path on the page. You can choose between UTC or local time, and the bookmark feature gives you the url link so you can share what you have created with others. There’s even a Dark Mode, so pilots won’t have to deal with a bright white screen when flying at night. But my favorite feature is the dedicated Thunderstorm button with the time slider. – Scott Spangler, Editor


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