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Is there a sanctioned way of retrieving the GFS data 4 times a day? I don't want to use the READY web interface in an automated script. is a good example of what I want to do, but with a subset of data a balloonist would find useful.

The only way you can do it is by downloading the data files (in GRIB format) directly from NOAA NCEP, decoding them and plotting them with a software package such as GRADS. You can find the information on how to do a lot of this by looking at at:

Glenn Rolph