Chicago is dealing with a foot and a half of snow, freezing rain is falling in the Northeast and the wind chill is in the 20s here in the Sonoran Desert. As Americans flock to the Web to get updates on the weather, visitors to Weather Underground will be greeted with a new streamlined design. Wundergound.com isn’t your typical weather site, however. The site takes crowdsourcing to a new level and uses Personal Weather Stations (PWS) to report the weather in your neighborhood.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist and co-founder of Weather Underground. Wunderground.com is the second largest weather site in the world with more than 19,000 Personal Weather Stations registered on the site. The data gathered from this network allows Wunderground.com to make extremely accurate weather predictions. In fact, the PWS network sometimes does a better job of forecasting than more traditional forecasting models.
Weather and climate change go hand in hand. With the surge in snowstorms in 2010, I often hear people joke about global warming – “There’s two feet of snow on the ground, what global warming?” Masters and I discussed the interesting communication problem that he encounters while trying to talk about climate change in the middle of winter. Although climate change is often misunderstood, the exceptional weather experienced in 2010 is beginning to open peoples' eyes about climate change.
Here are a few examples of the highly unusual weather we saw in 2010:
- The second 100-year drought in the Amazon in the last five years.
- An extreme high-pressure reading was recorded on Greenland on Dec. 15, 2010
- Last year started with a strong El Nino and ended with a strong La Nina
- Extreme flooding in Australia
- The Russian heat wave
- The strongest negative phase ever recorded in the Arctic oscillation occurred last winter
In preparation for the changing state of our climate, Masters and the staff at Wunderground.com are planning to add more green content and are searching for a full-time meteorologist to head their climate change site. The wild winter weather is bringing attention to the climate change issue, and Weather Underground wants to provide valuable information to its readers. While specific content topics have not yet been decided, the climate change site will be fed by user input. Expected topics will include information on reducing your carbon footprint, how to make eco-conscious purchasing decisions and more.
As a long-time user of Wunderground.com, I’m excited about the redesign and the desire to build out the climate change portion of the site. The new design has a more modern look and feel, is feature-rich and is easier to navigate than the previous version.
My favorite feature is the new map. Wundermap allows you to customize how you view the radar in your area. You can choose to have the NEXRAD Radar displayed alongside all of the weather stations in your area and even have the storm tracks plotted for you. No more guessing if that storm with a tornado warning is heading your way, thanks to the new Wundermap.
After spending a few hours playing around with the new site, I realized that I should register my son’s Personal Weather Station so we can start contributing to the forecast in our area. Yes, my son has a PWS of his own — we are a weather- and climate-loving family. If you’re also a weather-loving family, spend some time checking out the new Wunderground.com today.
MNN homepage photo: dobrych/Flickr