Saturday, March 30, 2013

Reviewing Forecast.io

The creators of Dark Sky, an app for Apple devices that can predict whether it would rain or snow, have created a new website called Forecast.io.  It's generated a fair amount of buzz in the tech world but in terms of hard core weather reliability, it has some merit and from a glamour and glitz standpoint, it offers a lot of nice looks.  More on that in a minute...first, the one beef I have with it.

For instance, this snapshot below shows conditions on Thursday evening with the forecast for next week, which includes our Sunday and Monday evening chances for showers.   The app simply calls those showers "sprinkles" as a counterpoint in the overview, with a broader mention of light rain for Sunday evening listed when you drill down on the specific days.




It may seem a bit of a petty and wordsmith argument but for some folks they may only look at the "next week" portion of the forecast and base their decision making off of that, not necessarily dig down for more information.  It seems to be underplaying the precipitation a bit in the "at a glance", only to contradict themselves further down.

Once we get past the linguistic and verbage, the website provides a slick interface and provides looks at current weather, its projected precipitation and cloud cover over the next several days for both local, regional, and global views.  Their temperature forecasts are a blend of model data, corrected to filter out bias issues (a model may have a warm or cold bias in a certain location), weighted based on model accuracy.  That gives them their temperature, precipitation, and weather outcomes.

Click for full sized version of graphic -- temperature blend from modeling.
It's a 21st Century approach to weather that has some potential of being rather successful...if it can catch on in the mass market.  Given the market is still rather crowded between local weatherfolk and the nationals, a site like this is very niche...it doesn't drill the why in the forecast but gives the facts (or as best a guess on the facts that can be ascertained!).  In a marketplace where different matters, I'm not sure where these guys stand out other than slick graphics and in-house model blend that sets up a forecast.  It may be enough to get some traction...but at least the site's got some nice look to it!