Forecasting the weather is the foundation of Austin’s Atmosphere. To that end I am pleased to announce a new product designed and being developed exclusively by Austin’s Atmosphere called iFxWeather. iFxWeather will be a tool built by meteorologists for meteorologists. The ultimate goal of this project is to allow any weather enthusiast, professional or otherwise, to create and publish their own weather forecast for a local city/town. iFxWeather will be a web-based application which means that no software will need to be downloaded to a personal computer or phone in order to use it. Furthermore, the output (end-result weather forecast) will be universal enough to fit a wide variety of publishing platforms (blog, website, Twitter, Facebook, email, SMS text, etc).
After I graduated college with my meteorology degree I was fortunate enough to find a full-time job in my field, however I still wanted to practice local weather forecasting in my spare time. I had family and friends who were all counting on me to keep them up-to-date on the most recent meteorological developments. I was always being asked how much snow I thought we were going to get during Friday’s storm, or if it was going to rain during the upcoming weekend barbeque. Why did my friends and family ask me for my meteorological opinion rather than whipping out their phone or watching the Weather Channel? One word, credibility.
Professional weather forecasts are readily available to anybody these days from big sources like Weather.com, AccuWeather, WeatherUnderground and the National Weather Service. But each source can have wildly different opinions based on the same model output. For example, we often we see different weather outlets forecasting wildly different snow accumulation totals because each outlet interprets the computer model output differently. Furthermore, meteorological behemoths tend to focus more on big-picture weather impacts because they are tailored to a very broad audience. This is where the local meteorologist comes into play. Local meteorologists tend to produce more accurate forecasts for their area/region because they have been forecasting for their hometown/region for a long time and they know how weather systems behave at the micro-scale. Therefore local meteorologists can craft a forecast for a much more specific audience.
Why Do We Need This?
Soon after graduating college I really started exploring the wonderful world of website design and content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. Initially I wanted to put together a simple website where I could aggregate many of my frequent forecasting sources and post my own local weather forecasts in my spare time. What I was surprised to find was a conspicuous dearth of tools readily available to meteorologists (professional, amateur, hobbyist, etc) to compose, publish, track, verify and/or score a basic weather forecast. As a recent graduate I was not flush with cash, thus putting professional-grade software suites out of my reach. I turned to WordPress plugins next. Surely in the hundreds of thousands of WordPress plugins someone must have created a simple tool that let’s someone create a simple forecast. No? Well maybe there’s a website out there that let’s you enter your forecast info and then turns it into a nice-looking template to email to people, post to your own site or print out? Not even for a modest fee??? This baffled me. With so many students in the meteorology field today and numerous hobbyist meteorologists I figured that someone must have developed a tool like this before. But to this day I am unable to find this mythical meteorologist tool.
Thus I decided that I would take the plunge and develop a platform which will allow anyone to create a weather forecast, publish it to a blog or website in a nice looking template, send it to friends and family, and finally verify/score it. After all, anybody with a computer can forecast, but the real question is how accurate their forecasts are. In the past I’ve discussed several methods for attributing a numerical score to a weather forecast. My upcoming product, iFxWeather (pronounced “I forecast weather”), is planned to be built in several steps.
Obviously these are the very early stages of development and therefore I would love to hear people’s feedback about this idea and any suggestions to improve it. Also, if you would like to volunteer to help test this product as it is developed you may contact me via email me or post below in the comments.