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Inter Tropical Convergence Zone
How I use this Site to Monitor Boquete District Weather
Mark Twain is credited with saying, "Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get." Regardless of what we think or do, the weather is going to happen and so will life. Despite the uncontrollable inevitability of these happenings, it is useful to be fully aware of them and when possible make choices that will make the most of things and avoid unnecessary hazards. Besides, both life and weather tend to be more interesting if you don't sleep through them. With this bit of wisdom in mind, I keep looking up and daily monitor the weather (if you need more reasons to look up checkout this link). Here is how I do it:

1. When I get out of bed in the morning, I look out our second story windows to the east and south to see what the sky in general is presenting. The type of clouds, their height, direction of movement and the general direction of the winds all get my attention. I smile and am grateful to still be on the planet in a very special place facing another day of interesting events to include the weather.

2. I make a melita drip cup of wonderful Palmira Gold (Boquete coffee grown and roasted on our small Palmira Arriba coffee farm). I smile again. I turn on the computer and check the ever fluctuating internet speed for this day/moment. I then check the Yahoo, Google and NYT headlines, but don't read the details. I do that later after I have more coffee on board and my courage is up. I then go to
3. If I am in a hurry, which I try to avoid in my retirement, I click on the button. This section delivers the basic things needed to monitor our weather on the run. It starts with our WeatherHawk Palmira Arriba weather station summary. This station is located on our property and gives us the local read on things. Since I have a "special relationship" with the owners, I know the station is of good quality and is well maintained. I can trust the readings. I especially note the direction of the wind. I then take a quick look at the weather banner for the David weather conditions. I then scroll down to the infrared satellite image, check when it was last updated (usually 30 to 60 minutes ago), and look carefully at the cloud systems over and around our area of Panama. The brighter the graphic colors, the colder and higher the cloud systems with red representing the highest cloud systems. High clouds typically are associated with cumulonimbus clouds and thunderstorms. I then drop down to the satellite image of wind direction and note which direction the winds are generally moving. This gives some idea of which direction the cloud systems will be moving during the day. I then take a look at the Caribbean Synoptic Chart (again noting when it was last updated) to see where the ITCZ is hovering and the general weather picture for the Caribbean. I go down to the latest Tropical Weather Discussion and read what the experts are saying. I pay the most attention to the comments related to our area. All of this takes less than 5 minutes.
4. If I am not in a hurry, I start by going to the section. I check the latest Caribbean Synoptic Chart and then check the Unified Surface Analysis Chart where I can click on the chart to get a close-up synoptic chart of the details of our area. I then read the latest Tropical Weather Discussion. This gives me an overview of weather in the Caribbean and I can check for any information specifically about Panama. I usually take a look at Brian McNoldy's Pacific and Atlantic ITCZ Status page to see a graphical display of the ITCZ. If there is potential storm activity developing in the Atlantic-Caribbean areas, I go to the Weather Underground Tropical Storms web site. I think this is the single best weather web site on the internet. For a minimal annual fee of about $4.00 it is advertisement free and you are supporting a good thing. The tropical weather blog by Dr. Jeff Masters is worth reading to get insights and information regarding tropical storms from a very experienced meteorologist. If there is a tropical storm going on, I also check some of the other links available at our tropical section.
5. I then go to the section. This page automatically downloads the latest visible, infrared and vapor images as well as 3 levels of wind images. I look all of these images over and click on the images for larger more detailed views of cloud and moisture areas as well as the direction of wind movement at the 3 levels. I may check out the CIMSS Tropical Wave Tracking images if there are reports of interesting tropical waves reported in the tropical discussion. I always check the NOAA Infrared Satellite Loop for Western Atlantic - Caribbean Region. I think this is the best loop site on the internet. Although it is a Java Script program that takes a bit of downloading time it is worth the wait. It has a number of interactive features to incluce a zoom feature that allows you to zoom into areas of interest to view more local action. I usually turn-on the latitude-longitude grid, find the Chiriqui area (8°N 82°W) and zoom to see how things are moving in our area. The GOES Full Globe Interactive Infrared Image gives a full view of our side of the globe and allows you to click on it to zoom into the Panama area. I occasionally check this out. Every few days, I also check the image of the Latest World Sea Temperatures because I am curious and the image is impressive.
6. Next I click to the section and check the local readings at the Boquete District stations. I start at out Palmira Arriba station and then look at Santuario and Volcancito. When necessary, I check the Palmira Station archived data at the Weather Underground site. In the section on climate, I discuss the cautions in using private weather station readings and mentioned that you should always check to make sure that the data is current. While at the stations section I also glance at the banners for David, Santiago and Panama City. I occasionally go to the Hidrometeorologia Republica de Panama forecasts section and check their forecasts for Chiriqui lowlands and highlands.
7. If there is an earthquake, I go to the section and see what the USGS and Panama's Instituto de Geociencias has to say about it. Having some information seems to comfort me a bit since I find it quite unnerving to have the earth beneath me move.
There you have it. This is my way with weather. This may seem complicated, but the entire process usually takes only 10-15 minutes. I sip our Palmira Gold coffee and think about it. With time, I am learning more about the weather in this area and will eventually have more data on which to build forecasts and climate information. During the current wet season I try to make daily predictions regarding the rain. If I am feeling confident about it, I tell my wife, our farm manager and our caretaker. When I am right, they seldom say anything. When I am wrong they joke and laughingly ask me the next day, "What is your prediction today?" Of course, I can usually be right during the rainy season by saying, "There will probably be rain today." This gets further laughs. Throughout the day, I check our station readings to see how the temperature and wind are going. Sudden shifts in the wind from north to south are often associated with impending rain. If it rains, I check the rate of rain fall and monitor the totals for the day, month and year. It is fun to watch the data when the thunderstorms are flashing, rumbling and dumping their torrential buckets. Throughout the day, I frequently look up and watch the sky. At times, I try to capture the beauty of it in pixels. I always marvel at the beauty and the mystery of it all. It makes me smile.
I actually enjoy the variation of weather that we have in this Tropical Paradise. I agree with John Steinbeck who said, "I've lived in good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate." Regardless of the daily weather, I try to enjoy it. If it rains long and hard I try to remember the advice of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."

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