Forecast Advisor may be the best kept secret in the weather industry. This website is run by Intellovations and compares the accuracy of 12 of the most popular weather forecasters. It only works in the US. You enter your ZIP code and then it gives you a ranking based on the accuracy of each service’s weather predictions over the past month and year. You may be surprised at the differences between the different sources and their ability to predict the weather.
This information is very useful, depending on the weather app that you are using. You can switch data sources in many third-party apps, so that you get the most accurate weather near you – for me, it was AccuWeather – and have a more useful system.
It’s also useful to know your favorite forecaster, as there is no perfect source of weather data. It’s impossible to cover all areas, whether it’s due to the model used, the number of weather stations they have in the area, or the access they have to radar data.
Data is not the only thing that matters. Each source has its own algorithm for processing data, and also tools for publishing that data. Jonas Downey is the co-creator and creator of hello weather. “I prefer those that are more poetic, because they write about what will happen.” Some are very brief, such as ‘partly clouds.’ Others are more detailed, such as ‘there will be slight cloud in the afternoon with a light wind.’
Many weather apps provide multiple sources of information, rather than just one. More than one developer said they were trying to integrate Forecast Advisor in order to make it easier to choose the best source. They hope that by improving on the built-in weather apps, they can convince users to pay for and download a third-party system.
Dark Sky is a huge loss for fans of weather apps — and developers.
The weather app industry has had a strange couple of years. Apple announced in 2020 that it had acquired Dark Sky a popular weather app, which also served as the data provider for many other weather apps. Dark Sky’s app stopped working at the start of the year. The API was shut down in march. Apple has added Dark Sky’s technology to its Weather app, and replaced Dark Sky API by its own tool called WeatherKit.
Many users and developers felt sad about the loss of Dark Sky. It was an masterwork of data-driven design and its API was simple to use and inexpensive to integrate. It was also able to provide minute-by-minute weather information long before other providers. This made it possible for users to receive notifications like “it will rain in 8 mins”. Trevor Turk, Hello Weather’s other cofounder, says that without Dark Sky they would not have been able to create a weather application. Dark Sky, unlike most providers, was designed to give you all the information with just one API request. Instead of asking for each data point, an app can simply ask “what is the weather?” and receive a complete answer. Dark Sky’s data structure is the reason why so many apps show current weather followed by hourly, daily and weekly forecasts.
Then, things got worse as Apple Weather and WeatherKit started to crash spectacularly. Early April, the Weather application stopped supplying data multiple times and replaced forecasts with error message. WeatherKit was a data source that developers were unable to use for several hours. Anton Chuiko, developer of the app Weather Fit, says that his users were unable to check the weather at all for a while. “From a technological point of view, the app is not stable.”
The chaos presented a chance, too. Sensor Tower, a market intelligence firm, reports that the average downloads of five popular weather apps rose by 170 percent in the week following the outages. The weekly active users of these apps increased by 9 percent in the same week. Apple Weather’s recovery slowed things down, but the developers still saw that they could do more.
Dark Sky is no longer available and WeatherKit is unreliable. Many weather apps now integrate multiple sources in order to ensure they are always online and offer the most accurate predictions everywhere. The UI is a challenge: it’s hard to give users five or six different forecasts, even if they are all similar.
All this data is also expensive. Downey, from Hello Weather, says that they would need to access every data source each time the request was made and then combine all of the data. It would be slow and costly. Turk adds: “We are also not allowed to do this.
Many weather apps now require subscriptions. Carrot Weather costs around $20 per year and Hello Weather is about $13 per year. It’s an expensive price to pay for an app that comes with your phone.
These apps cater to weather geeks and dig deeper into data to make them more valuable. Mueller from Carrot, for example, claims to have spent the majority of last year developing new radar tools. He says that in the US the radar is generated by individual radar stations. The data from the individual radar stations is more accurate than that of the mosaic. Mueller adds, “There are a lot of others too,” like the velocity which shows the direction the wind is moving and the “correlation coefficient” that helps to see debris flying in the air during a tornado.
The weather apps cater to weather geeks more than ever
Weather apps must walk a fine line. They have to offer a one-screen experience that allows you to open the app in seconds and see the weather, but also provide depth and knowledge no other built-in app can match. Then, slowly guiding users into the rabbit hole by teaching them to compare forecasts and read radar.
Apple Weather, and similar products will be fine for the average consumer. Turk, Hello Weather’s Turk, says that he believes it will be similar to Apple Maps. Apple Maps was terrible when it first came out. But it improved over time. Developers know that they have to constantly improve and find new ways to be better to stay on top. All developers are thinking about how weather apps will look on Apple’s much-rumored headset, and preparing for the many new features that they’ll need to adopt once the next version iOS is released in June.
They think that the best way to compete is simply by being better at predicting the weather. Downey, Hello Weather’s CEO, says that there is something psychological to this. The weather is something that happens to you and you have no control over it. A weather app can give you the sense of control. This means that there are more data, data sources and tools to help people become their own meteorologist. There is no perfect weather app, because not all apps are the same. You don’t have to be caught in the rain.