Weather forecasts get a design makeover

Molly Wood Jun 18, 2013
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Weather forecasts get a design makeover

Molly Wood Jun 18, 2013
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The weather has felt a little extreme recently — and it’s been making headlines. Colorado residents are battling massive forrest fires. Oklahoma has suffered devastating tornadoes. And there’s been severe flooding in Iowa to say nothing of what’s been happening in central Europe. There is some good news though, we are getting better at predicting the weather. Still, if prediction is half the battle, presentation is the other half. You can be right all you want, but if nobody’s listening, it doesn’t matter.

“There’s huge room for improvement in communicating [the weather] and helping people access and understand [it] to make the decisions they want to make,” says Jeff Lazo, an economist who works at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Lazo’s research suggests U.S. adults get an estimated 300 billion weather forecasts each year. And with new technology, that information comes relatively cheap — and open source.

“The world is filled with raw weather data,” says Adam Grossman, who created the weather mobile app Dark Sky with a few of his friends. “We’re not meteorologists, we’re just computer nerds.”

The app uses radar data from the National Weather Service to tell users what’s happening, where they are, up to the minute. Grossman thinks a big part of his app’s success has been its design.

“Most people don’t care about humidity or wind speed or things like that,” Grossman says. “If you have an interface that always gives you that data, a lot of times you can just end up with a big cluttered mess.”

Click on the audio player above to hear more. And tell us, do you think simple is better when it comes to checking the weather?

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