Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:26 PM GMT on February 06, 2006
Weather enthusiasts like to watch the Super Bowl--that's my not-so startling conclusion after analyzing the Internet bandwidth curves from the wunderground.com website from last night. In a pattern I've seen during every Super Bowl since wunderground.com opened shop in 1995, our bandwidth plot (Figure 1) shows a clear drop-off in traffic in the 45 minutes prior to the game, a sudden spike in traffic at halftime, a sharp drop when halftime ends, and a return to normal levels at the end of the game. Interestingly, the national championship game for college football has never been apparent on our bandwidth curves. The only other non-weather related event I've seen affect our bandwidth occurred in the aftermath of the 9/11 disaster when our traffic dropped below 50% of normal after 9am and stayed at less than half of normal all day.
Our sharpest spike in bandwidth due to a non-hurricane weather event occurred in 1999 when an F5 tornado ripped through Oklahoma City. Major hurricanes hitting the U.S. regularly cause large bandwidth spikes, particularly in the 30-minute period after NHC issues the 11am advisory. Our busiest day ever was September 22, 2005, as Hurricane Rita approached the Texas/Louisiana coast. Each NHC advisory issued that day created a large bandwidth spike bigger than the Super Bowl halftime spike. Google has a page showing their top searched-for natural disasters of 2005. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita produced roughly equivalent peaks, but Katrina's peak lasted much longer.
Figure 1. Plot of total bandwidth in bits/sec for a portion of the weather imagery sent out by the wunderground.com web site during the Super Bowl on February 5, 2006. The times on the bottom axis are EST.
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