Peter Buckner has created one of the slickest weather sites I've come across - AvnWx.com. This website utilizes the Google Maps programming interface as a backdrop to put a wealth of real-time aviation weather resources under your computer mouse. It is a slick, relatively easy-to-use presentation that helps you get that "big picture" view before heading out to the launch field.
The information on this website should be used for information only. You must contact an official Weather Briefer prior to flight to make sure you have the latest weather and NOTAMs. AvnWx.com cannot guarantee fully accurate delivery of complete briefing information.
When you first open the site, a help page is displayed with lots of useful information. It goes away too quickly to read, but don't worry - it's just on the bottom half of the page if you scroll down.
The next thing you'll see is that a map appears, and at first it probably isn't an area you're interested in. Weather information is displayed only for a portion of the map: otherwise the amount of data would be overwhelming. The current "window" of data is shown on the map using a thick grey circle. You can change this in one of several ways:
Within the grey circle, Current weather (METARs), Pilot Reports (PIREPs), Terminal Forecasts (TAFs), and Winds and Temperature Aloft information are displayed where available from any airport.
And that is (to me) the neatest thing about how to access all this information - you just point. Move your mouse over any symbol on the map and a window pops up in the top left with information (see also the map shown above):
Want to see conditions at this airport for the last half-day? Click the airport's symbol on the map to keep the METAR box open, then click the <<12hrs link within the box.
Round circle symbols on the map or in the pop-up box indicate present weather at the airport - green is VFR, blue is MVFR (marginal), red is IFR. A square inside the circle is "clear below 12000 feet", while a partial circle indicates sky coverage (¼, ½, ¾). If you see a clock symbol, that indicates a Terminal Forecast is available, and will pop-up if you hover over the clock:
click image to enlarge
A clear, white, weather-balloon looking symbol indicates winds aloft forecast is available and will pop-up when you hover over the balloon:
click image to enlarge
There are dotted lines between some of the elevations. These dotted lines (if under wind speeds) show possible areas of wind shear -- the threshold is 18 knots. No guarantee, since wind shear can happen anywhere. If the dots are under the temperature, then it indicates a greater than 3° per thousand lapse rate: an indication of likely unstable weather. (The Winds Help page describes the details. Click on the weather balloon icon in the pop-up window to view the help.)
You can also get NEXRAD radar to overlay the map - check the NEXRAD box in the Control Panel. It will even loop the most recent radar depictions if you you check the "Animate" box. You say you don't like converting from UTC (Zulu) to local time? Change the option from "ZULU timezone" to "Local timezone" and all pop ups, forecasts, observations, etc. will display local time (your computer's local time). If you're looking at a map of another time zone, it will NOT be the local time there - this can be confusing. Better to learn the Zulu time conversion.
METAR in UTC (Zulu) time - 18:10z
METAR in Local time - 13:10
You can open a new window with the Area Forecast by right-clicking the map and selecting "Area Forecast" from the pop-up menu. By default, forecast is displayed "cooked" or translated into plain English. If you like your forecasts raw, there's a "Show Raw" button at the top of the page.
Even for small airports that don't have local weather reports, you can still get information about the airport by clicking on their symbols within the map. Information like elevation, sunrise and sunset and moonrise and set times (local to that airport) is displayed. It even has links to the FAA's airport directory with even more airport information; just click on the airport diagram symbol (outlined in blue in the illustration at right) in the airport information box. This same information is also availble from the METAR box if you click on the airport symbol within the map to hold the box open.
There's a lot of stuff here - really cool stuff. The little pink balloons with symbols in them are PIREPS, and if there's a picture available of the aircraft type reporting, it will even display that picture to the right side of the screen. If pictures of the airport are available, they will be displayed when you hover over the airport.
If you have suggestions for improvements to the AvnWx.com Aviation Weather Map, you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Aviation Weather Map link has been added to the Resouces page on the NBC website. Look for it with the other Weather Links.