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The “Crap App” Dilemma

| 6:27 pm August 18, 2012

There has been a vast change in the way people get weather information over the past several years. While having reliable, up to date weather information at your fingertips 24/7 is very appealing and a good thing, it does bring about some problems.

I would suggest a large percentage of the population today now gets their short term weather forecast on their phone, or a portable computing device like an iPad or a laptop. After all, it doesn’t get any easier. Just open a quick app on the phone, and there it is… weather for the next 7 days. Heck, some apps even give you weather for the next 15 days. A nice little picture of the weather and the high/low. Fantastic.

But, maybe not.

Unfortunately most weather apps use automated computer model data with no quality control, and you wind up with very poor quality forecasts that are not only uesless at times, but also very deceiving.

Just about every day in summer, your app will show a little picture of a sun, partially covered by a storm. No explanation beyond that. The truth is that computer models are horrible with summer convection here in the Deep South; we humans have enough issues as it is.

I have received about two dozens messages today from people livid that it is raining, and WE said there was only a “10 percent chance of rain”. No doubt those two dozen people got the forecast from a “crap app”… that are useless, and we get the blame. Some of these apps were forecasting highs of 120 degrees in Alabama back in late June, which of course was a farce.

We spend long hours putting down a detailed forecast discussion, and a seven day forecast that is published here. Bill Murray, the forecaster on duty today, did a masterful job in describing how most of the showers and storms would be along and south of U.S. 278 on his morning package, and nailed the forecast… while the some of the “crap apps” were at 10 percent.

And, on top of that, we post a meteorological discussion and technical video (called the Weather Xtreme video) here on the blog twice daily during the week, and once daily on weekends.

Of course, we are all over social media. I have over 103,000 Facebook followers, and over 67,000 on Twitter, and I spend long, hard hours putting out weather information that is easily available on any smart phone, tablet, or computer. Are we always right? Of course not. But, I assure you will get much, much better weather information from professionals who understand not only the science, but also the people, geography, and culture of the region we serve. Your app was probably coded by somebody in India who has never heard of Tuscaloosa.

So, am I writing this from a selfish perspective? Wanting people to use only our products? Not really. You need to poke around and find what is most reliable for you. But, let me encourage you to install a short cut on your phone or tablet of our 7 day forecast page, and our main blog page here. And, please consider taking a little time to review that information before making big decisions based on crap apps.

And, I always answer questions on Twitter and Facebook if you have them. Most meteorologists don’t do that. And, no, I don’t have anybody else with access to my social media accounts. You get an answer or update from James Spann, it is really from James Spann.

Next question is this… why don’t you develop your own app that doesn’t rely on automated computer model data. Well, we just might be doing that right now. We do want to make it easier for you to gain access to our forecast products, whether on TV, radio, the Internet, or on any device. That is our responsibility to serve you. This is a service business, after all.

Thanks for reading… from your frustrated meteorological friends at ABC 33/40 and the Weather Company…

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  1. [...] People love weather there is no denying this and to appease people’s ever-increasing hunger for weather information everybody wants to offer you a forecast. In the information age that weather information is available everywhere, which in many ways is a good thing that you can get your weather information on various platforms. Those platforms include TV, Internet, Mobile Apps, Radio, Cable, Satellite and even print. Yet even within those platforms there are choices. These are distribution platforms of weather content, the problems arise in the source of this weather content on those platforms.  The average person doesn’t know how to make a forecast. To fill this void companies are mass producing weather information to distribute it to the masses on as a many platforms as possible. Since it’s impossible & impractical to hire the staff and expertise to make “quality” forecasts across so many platforms they turn to automation from computer models to provide the “quantity” of forecasts needed. The results are lots of forecasts made cheaply and often times with no quality control. Because some outlets use different models and update at different times you end up with wide-ranging forecasts across many platforms. This results in a whole bunch of very inaccurate forecasts due to the over-reliance on computer models and the lack of quality control. The biggest offended right now is smart phone app, which as my good friends James Spann calls “The Crap App Dilemma”. [...]

  2. [...] just limited to Charleston. James Spann, chief meteorologist at ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, AL, sings the “crap app” blues as [...]