Sunday, August 2, 2015

New GRIB Viewer for Macs

For years we lamented to our Mac friends and students that there were so few good marine applications for the Macintosh that they were better off biting the bullet and buying a PC for their marine navigation and weather applications. This litany followed us right into these modern times when we ourselves started running our own PC programs on virtual machines in a Mac.

But sure enough, when the demand grew high enough, these apps have started to appear. In the weather department, our neighbors at Ocens were the first to bring high-quality weather products to the Mac with a series of valuable applications.

And the bar keeps rising, in this case with a new GRIB weather data viewer for the Mac called LuckGrib. As it turns out, this is also a product of the Pacific Northwest, though its developer Craig McPheeters happens to be underway sailing in the South Pacific at the time his product will first appear in the App Store sometime in August.

In keeping with Mac standards, LuckGrib has an elegant design and convenient interface, with several unique features added to the standard functionality we expect from a high-quality weather tool. Besides its versatile display options, it also offers a way to download the data from an Internet connection. Built in data sources include: GFS, WW3, and CMC Ensemble.

Though we tend to reply mostly on wind and pressure for routing, and the 500-mb data for evaluation, and sometimes the precipitation, this new LuckGrib app offers very much more. In a deep Advanced Option you can request any of the 320 weather parameters predicted by the GFS system, including temperatures, humidity, cloud cover, convective properties, and many more at essentially any altitude level in the atmosphere. You would have to be a professional forecaster to make use of much of this info, but it can be found here if desired.

Other outstanding features include:

• Fast operation and smooth performance on all options using even relatively large files. 

• Convenient data selection and request interface. It is always, however,  the navigator’s job to select only the data needed, only over the region needed.

• Versatile track pad pinch zoom and pan. A slider bar can also adjust the zoom level, and standard mouse click and drag also works to crisply adjust the map view.

• User added identification notes to stored data files, along with clear organization of downloaded files to access for updates.

• Many options for personal preferences in color schemes and actual data display configurations available for each of the data types.

• A dynamic feedback option that shows the values at the cursor not just of wind arrows, but also wind speed contours, pressure, or any parameter or combination of parameters. A very informative way to look at the distribution of data.

• A min and max point display within the wind contour option offers nice way to see strongest parts of a storm.

• Option for selecting GFS resolution of 1º, 0.5º, or 0.25º.

• Time to next update for each model. A very nice feature that prevents users from extraneous data downloads underway.

• A draw route leg option, with ticks at specified user-selected intervals. This can be used as an electronic range and bearing line to read the maps, or as a route leg to check wind along a path at a fixed time—or it has the very useful application of setting a day or two route leg, and then sliding the time marker to continuously watch the winds all along that path.

• Time control allows for interpolation of wind fields at times intermediate to the forecast times, which is valuable for comparing with satellite wind data, or making wind predictions at specific times.

• Low price—which has to be considered a practical outstanding feature. It is predicted to be $20, which would make this a must have app for all sailors using Macs for weather work. There is one other high-quality GRIB viewer for the Mac called Grib Explorer for Mac from Ocens, which has many outstanding features of its own. In the ideal world we would have both of these fine tools, but at $199 for the Grib Explorer it requires a larger budget plus an external source for downloading the data.

We have used the beta version of LuckGrib extensively for several months. The LuckGrib viewer is elegant, fast, and functional. Regardless of other weather tools you might have, this tool will add new functionality that will improve your weather work.  If you have not used GRIB forecasts at all, LuckGrib is an excellent way to get started—but we must remind all GRIB users that unvetted numerical weather prediction data (such as GFS GRIB files) should always be compared with the actual professional forecasts prepared by the NWS and their counterparts around the world.

Tech support and related information can be found at

We will add illustrations later and a video on standard and special operations.

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