Q: How can I find out about system changes, product changes, and experimental products?
A: We have a low-volume mailing list for such announcements. Please visit http://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/mmab/mailing.shtml
to sign up.
Q: When are the products made available?
A: In general, as soon as possible after construction.
Q: Are there any alternate locations I can get the files from?
A: Absolutely. Polar is not an operational system itself:
Q: Polar is not letting me in to ftp files, do I need a special account
or password? Have you discontinued public service?
A: There are no special accounts or passwords required to access our
products. If public access were ever discontinued, the fact would
be mentioned prominently on the web site. What probably happened
to you is that you have a firewall in place now that is not identifying
itself correctly. If your apparent address does not respond to an
identity query, ftp connection will be refused. Please talk to
your system administrator about how to fix this problem on your side.
Q: I'm trying to retrieve files, have a correctly established firewall,
and polar is still refusing service after the initial login.
A: For some connections, the 'passive' setting is important and may
need to be toggled.
Q: Can I have the products emailed to me?
- ncftp (ncftpget) may need the -E option.
- ftp may need you to issue the "passive" command (this will
flip your current setting, whatever that is)
- Some ftp software, command line ftp from Windows 98 and XP is
known to have this problem, produces failures if you attempt to open
A: Yes. Please see http://weather.noaa.gov/pub/fax/ftpmail.txt
for the instructions.
Q: I would like to link to your site, or to images, is that ok?
Is there anything special I need to do, permissions to be obtained?
A: It is not only permitted but welcome for people to link to our
products. It is generally better to link to the html pages than
to the graphics themselves, as we change graphic file names more often
and graphics don't lend themselves to messages of impending changes as
html pages do. Please see http://www.weather.gov/disclaimer.php
for the NWS disclaimer on product distribution, which includes the
details. You may find it better for your site's appearance, when
it comes to the graphics, to construct your own, as many sites
do. The model and analysis output are available for ftp for all
our operational products. See the web pages for those products
for the details of where to ftp them from.
Q: I hear that polar won't be around much longer. What is its
future and its replacement?
A: A machine named polar is expected to be around for some time to
come. What hardware stands behind that name can be expected to
change, as has already happened 4 times in the history of the
name. See also the question about where else MMAB products may be
Q: What is 'Z' (as in 00Z)?
A: This is a legacy reference, carried over from military use. It means UTC.
Q: What is UTC?
A: Universal Time. Used by all national weather services. For precision use,
there is actually more than one UTC.
Q: What is GRIB?
A: GRIdded Binary. Standard format for meteorological information specified by the
World Meteorological Organization
Q: How do I read GRIB?
A: For older files, you want grib1, for newer, grib2:
Q: What is BUFR?
A: A binary format more suited to, say, satellite observations than to gridded information. Again, a WMO standard.
We don't generally provide ideas for science fair projects, but one question did
arrive and was suitable for our branch to comment on. It regared constructing
a science fair project to examine how waves are made.
If you have a small lake nearby (a few hundred yards to a couple of
miles across), this would be easiest and give the best data. The thing
to do is measure the wind speed (science fair books at the library often
have directions for build-your-own anemometers, or you can use your
local weather reports) and then measure the wave heights as you move
away from the shore in the direction the wind is blowing. Very near
shore, the waves will be small. As you go off shore (but in the wind's
direction) the waves will build up, even though the wind is no faster
than before. On a lake I regularly visit, it is easy to see this effect
across the half mile of the lake's length. There may even be no apparent
waves for the first 100 yards, if the wind speed is low enough. The
distance from shore is called the 'fetch'. If your lake is small, then
you may find that you're 'fetch-limited' -- that is, the waves are
continuing to get taller even at the far shore.
The harder method is to build a combination wave tank/wind tunnel.
Since you probably can't build a wave tank a half mile long, you won't
be able to explore the fetch effects. But what you should be able to
examine is the wind speeds for the start of wave growth and what effect the
initial state of the water has. Wave tanks can be interesting to study
in their own rights (wave shadows behind pillars, waves meeting other
waves and interfering or reinforcing each other).
The best wave tank is one made with see-through sides. Plexiglass is good
for this. You'll want to be able to change the depth of water in the
tank (this may have an effect on your results, I don't know so it is
good to test) so ideally the tank should be a foot or two tall. For
wave generation by wind, you don't need a very wide tank, a foot should
be enough (to do other wave experiments, you would make a tank that was
only a few inches deep, but was easily two feet wide, and preferably three).
For wave generation, you'll need some length to the tank, at least 3-4
feet. This gets to be a lot of water, which will weigh a lot and take
a fair amount of time to fill. The ends of the tank, you'll need to make
a fair amount of time to fill. The ends of the tank, you'll need to make
in such a way (hinges? I'm not the best hands-on construction person so
find someone who is good to figure out the best way) that the tank ends
don't block the entry of air to the tank. You want the end the air starts
from to be barely above the water level of the tank. (The far end doesn't
have to match so well.)
The wind speed is a bit of a problem. A home built wind tunnel may
not be able to reach a high enough speed to build good waves. What you
may find easier, if you have a fairly unobstructed place to set up
the wave tank, is to build the wind tunnel-like cover and then let
the natural wind funnel in through that. What you'll want is a cover
that does funnel, the wider the open end is, the better, the wind
in to your wave tank. Then keep a constant size to the chamber over
the tank. The funnel will speed up the wind (by making the same amount
of air pass through a smaller channel) in proportion to the area ratio.
That is, if the big end facing in to the wind is 10 times the area of
the channel over the water, then the wind in your tunnel should be
about 10 times faster than the outside world.
To work with a wind tunnel that you control the whole way, what you'll
need is a strong fan to _pull_ the air in to the tunnel. Ideally, the fan
will be about the size of the tunnel where the tunnel is over the wave
tank. If you have to widen out to reach the fan, then you'll lose some of
the area effect for making the winds faster. But you do have to make the
covering extend out to the fan, or you won't pull air through the tunnel.
You'll also need an anemometer to tell how fast the wind is moving.
There is room for a lot of experimentation on how to construct this,
and on what to measure. The above are just some starting points.
Still have questions?
If they're about:
Last Modified 18 July 2012
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