Aug 26, 2016

Barometers and Smartphones

Weather predictions rely on sensors on the ground that report data, such as barometric pressure, which can help scientists determine when the weather is about to change. These sensors are also used to help local forecasters predict the weather.

During the last five years, the number of pressure sensors in the world has exploded, because Smartphone manufacturers have started putting them in Smartphones. The purpose is to help determine a device’s altitude for location tracking. Samsung’s Galaxy Smartphones have barometers built-in since 2011, and the feature came to Apple’s iPhone during 2014.

Now, many of the almost three billion Smartphones in the world have one. Developers and weather forecasters have been talking about using smartphone sensors for years, but the phone operating systems do not make available the pressure readings taken by their Smartphones.

Recently, a popular weather app called Dark Sky introduced an opt-in feature that automatically takes barometric pressure readings. It gets more than a million pressure sensor reports a day.

Dark Sky has several different ways to inform about important weather conditions in the exact spot you are standing with your phone. Precise down-to-the-minute notifications alerts when rain or snow is about to start. Severe weather alerts inform of dangerous conditions, and more. It even has detailed maps. LINK

Another opt-in app, WeatherSignal, takes automatic readings and sends data to a number of academic partners for processing. Organizers are hoping for a commercial piece in the near future.

It may be time we begin to help the weathermen, rather than curse their ignorance.

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