Weather Wide Web: How meteorology helped launch the internet

From Weatherwise by Kimbra Cutlip
September-October 2011 issue

On any given Tuesday during sailing season, Mark Thornton logs on to the Web and begins monitoring the long-range model outputs from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Penn State's e-wall. Over the next few days, he watches the data stream, makes his forecast, and sets his plans for a weekend cruise on Lake Erie. His forecast is as solid as if he were a meteorologist and not an administrator for an Ohio law firm.

Mark Thornton had been an avid sailor with no particular knowledge of meteorology when he became frustrated by erroneous marine forecasts. The Web gave him an opportunity to take matters into his own hands when he signed up for an online forecasting course through Penn State University. Without ever stepping foot in a classroom, or taking time away from his career as a legal administrator, Thornton went on to complete Penn State's two-year program, discovering a new passion for meteorology along the way. He now gives weather seminars for other sailors and maintains a Web site where he reformats readily available data to target the needs of sailors.

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