The record-breaking hurricane season has drawn millions of new fans to Internet weather forecast sites like the National Weather Service (www.noaa.gov), the Weather Channel (www.weather.com), and Accuweather (www.accuweather.com).
Weather always has been as popular an online topic as it is in everyday conversation. Surveys have shown that about 70 percent of people with Internet access check online weather, compared to about 50 percent for news on sports, money, and politics.
People suddenly seem more attuned to the violent side of Mother Nature. That s likely to continue through the end of hurricane season in November and into the winter storm season.
For sheer convenience in getting forecasts and local severe weather alerts delivered right to your computer, or mobile phone, it s difficult to beat the WeatherBug.
WeatherBug is a program that displays the current local temperature at one end of the Windows taskbar. That s the strip, usually running across the bottom of your screen, with the Windows Start Button at one end.
Click on the temperature numbers, and you get WeatherBug s full forecast screen. It displays local weather conditions, live images, forecasts, travel weather, and much more.
When the National Weather Service (NWS) issues severe weather alerts, WeatherBug lets you know. Its icon flashes and makes a cricket-like chirping. Click on its icon, and you get detailed information about the alert.
A mobile version of the program is available for cell phones.
WeatherBug is the most popular online service of its kind, tracking the weather on more than 32 million computers. There are still millions of computer users who are not aware of this wonderful program, or don t use it.
AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc. is the firm behind WeatherBug. A free version, which includes ads, can be downloaded at www.weatherbug.com. An enhanced, ad-free version, called WeatherBug Plus, is available for $19.95 a year.
WeatherBug also is integrated into America Online s Instant Messenger service. That popular program is available free at the AOL site (www.aol.com).
Be sure to select your location when you run WeatherBug for the first time. Click on the link and type in your postal Zip Code. Take a minute to customize the program. A click on Preferences opens that door.
AWS Convergence claims to own the world s largest weather network. It s a neighborhood-level network with more than 7,000 weather stations and more than 1,000 cameras.
Many of the weather stations are located in schools and they all feed into the WeatherBug network. That allows second-by-second updates of local temperature and other information. Other forecasting services may update only once an hour.
Negative perceptions of WeatherBug do exist.
One portrays it as spyware software that secretly collects information about your Web surfing habits. AWS denies it, explaining that the program is not capable of spying on consumers.
Most antispyware programs likewise do not list WeatherBug as a menace and let the program run.