Wii owners in North America got a nice surprise when their console's slot started glowing blue this morning—Nintendo sent a message announcing the availability of the Forecast Channel via a free Wii system update.

The Forecast Channel gives Wii owners rapid access to weather information. Featured immediately before the channel is even started are the current conditions for the location you've selected, showing temperature, weather conditions (i.e. "cloudy"), and wind speed and direction.

Launching the channel will show you this information again as well as additional pages showing the UV index and forecasts for today, tomorrow, and a five day outlook. There is also a weather globe which will show you current weather and temperature as well as forecasted weather and highs for today and tomorrow all over the world, including the South Pole. The globe offers ten levels of zoom from about the size of a small state to the world hanging in space, and six levels of tilt from perpendicular-to-the-ground to a horizon view.

Notably missing from the Forecast Channel at the moment is more in-depth information usually found in local forecasts, such as (for Michiganders like myself currently experiencing winter) wind chill; also not present are some of the perhaps taken-for-granted extras such as radar images. Unfortunately, and especially in the case of wind chill, the lack of information leaves the channel being somewhat of a novelty at present. Future additions like this could easily make the Forecast Channel the quickest way to get from coffee to weather in the morning.

The Forecast Channel was featured in the run-up to the Wii launch but was not actually available when launch consoles were unboxed. IThe News Channel, also featured, is still not available, but should be launched on January 27. North America appears to be the last to get the Forecast Channel, with the channel appearing in Japan, Europe, and Australia prior to its launch here this morning.