- Want to make an important contribution to weather prediction?
- Possess a smartphone app that gives you state-of-the-art weather information?
- Use an app that will provide an accurate elevation while hiking or other activities?
- An app that works on many Android smartphones, is highly rated, and is free?
An app you can download today at the Google Play store. The app website is here.
Billions of surface pressures each hour
As described in some of my previous blogs (here and here), at the University of Washington we have a project directed towards answering a central question:
Can pressure observations from millions of smartphones revolutionize weather forecasting?
By the end of the year over a billion smartphones with relatively high quality pressure sensors will be in use, producing a surface observing network of unparalleled density and number.
Can this data be collected and then used in numerical weather prediction, resulting in substantially improved forecasts?
Why this app?
Our initial tests applying smartphone observations used pressures collected by a small firm called PressureNet. The initial results were promising. But PressureNet has gone out of business. We approached Google and Apple to assist us, but so far they are not interested in improving weather prediction. We are talking with a major weather app about including the necessary code, but that hasn't been fruitful yet.
Importantly, we need a smartphone platform that will allow us to test a variety of approaches to securing pressures (e.g., how we calibrate the pressures, frequency of observations, knowing when the phone is moving, etc.) And we want to try using the smartphone pressures over places like the Pacific Northwest, to demonstrate value.
Our conclusion: we needed to build our own app to give us the flexibility required to push the envelope. And it would have to be so fun to use and valuable that large numbers of folks would want to download it.
Thus was born uWx! The author of this app is a very talented UW graduate student, Conor McNicholas.
Why Should You Try uWx?
Besides collecting and calibration smartphone pressures, uWx offers an amazing range of capabilities:
1. The latest weather observations at your current location (or any other)--see screenshots above.
2. The climatology of any location.
3. Five day forecasts at your current or other location. Including forecast maps.
4. High resolution radar and satellite imagery (high-resolution radar imagery is normally not available in free weather apps).
5. You can view the pressure measured by your smartphone and see a real-time plot of its variation (lots of fun moving the phone up and day and seeing the pressure change!)
6. Want the best altimeter around? This app tells you exactly how high you are, and even plots your progress over time. Hikers should love it. And the heights are MUCH better than you will get with GPS.
I have only touched upon a few of the capabilities of this app, which currently is only available for Android smartphones. It has been designed to minimize battery demands. Currently, there is a small group of folks testing it (about 500), but we need to increase that number dramatically. And many of the features of this phone work anywhere around the world. During the initial few weeks there will be only U.S. downloads, but full international access will be available soon.
If you want to try it, please go to the Google PlayStore and download it.
If you are in a position to encourage Google or Apple to get interested in helping weather prediction, send me an email (or leave a comment on this blog). They could greatly contribute to better weather prediction if they wanted. Hardware manufacturers (e.g., Samsung, Xiaomi, Lenova, etc.) could do the same.
Although our new app is completely free, contributions (deductible) will help enhance our research efforts are very welcome. Click here. We are doing this on shoe-string budget and additional funds would really help (bringing in more help).