It’s getting closer to that time of year – winter.  The snow will soon start flying and that means more and more people want to know when the snow will fall and how much snow to expect.  Many people turn to technology right in their pocket; their smartphone.  While weather apps are quite handy, are they really that good?

Weather apps generally do fairly well during quiet periods of weather.  But when bigger storms are in the forecast, especially winter storms, they are very unreliable.  Smartphone apps are entirely automated, with no actual human input into the forecast.  They are fed data from only a couple of models, which then generate a forecast for your location.  Ever notice your app always changing the forecast?  That’s because new data came in and the forecast has changed.  Because there is no actual human input, the app is at the mercy of ever-changing model data that changes every 6 hours.

With a real meteorologist, they can look at several sources of weather data and create a forecast based off of past experience, knowledge, and other observed trends.  Models may change every time they update, but the human meteorologist may not change their forecast at all.  Additionally, most apps look at only a couple models – maybe 2 or 3 at the most.  A meteorologist can look at several at once and some have their biases while others are more consistent.  An app cannot take that into consideration while a human can.  Here at Neoweather, we have access to several models – almost a dozen of them – and we can use that data to create a better, more accurate, and more consistent forecast than an app is able to do.

Even with all of that, sometimes the app ends up right!  Why is that?  Perhaps the model data it’s being fed actually ends up happening.  Humans aren’t perfect and certainly meteorology isn’t an age-old science where we’ve learned everything there is to learn (Mother Nature still surprises us at times!).  Perhaps the storm changed it’s track at the last moment or wasn’t as strong as previously thought.  While no forecast is perfect and no meteorologist is perfect, we can still use what we know to create a more accurate forecast than anything that is automated.  After all, an app is only as good as the data being fed into it.  Bad data = bad forecast.

A Comparison of Forecasts

In 2016, we conducted an internal study to see which forecasts did better over a three month period.  We compared our forecasts to that of 4 local Cleveland, OH TV stations, the local NWS office, and smartphone apps from AccuWeather & The Weather Channel.  The period sampled ended up being fairly quiet and tranquil, which resulted in most forecasts being relatively similar.  However, we compared the amount of error in each forecast over the three month period we studied and found that the smartphone apps had some of the highest error values.  It’s also important to note that this study compared the actual high and low temperature to the forecast high and low and whether or not we saw precipitation each day.  This was then tabulated by us to assign a numerical error value.  This was not a scientific study and we ensured that all data was scored correctly via cross-checking.  While the rankings were created and assigned by us. we did find it surprising as to how the local TV stations compared to other forecasts.  We would also like to note that Neoweather did not score the best in each of the three months studied.

This was the result of our 3-month forecast study, conducted in 2016. While we assigned the amount of error to each source through basic calculation of forecast conditions vs. observed conditions, we did so in a manner that was equally fair to each individual weather source. We found that Neoweather fared the best across the period (virtually tied with a local TV station). The smartphone apps had some of the worst error values. Note: The higher the number in “Amount of Error” = less accurate forecast.  This was a non-scientific study conducted internally by Neoweather.

 

Weather Apps Are Bad

Check out a recent video put together by our very own Brian Ivey.  If you’re in the snow & ice management business, you should consider whether or not your current source of weather information is working for you.  If you’re using an app (or several apps) and are tired of the forecast always changing or if you’re looking for more data than what you currently receive, I invite you to look into our consulting services.  We customize our service around the customer, with all of our forecasts being centered on your service area.  While we provide weather data and forecasts, we also provide peace of mind knowing that we’ll be here to support your operation.  If you have a question on the forecast, you can call or e-mail us anytime and we can assist you with that.  You can’t call that app and Siri isn’t going to know the answer to your question.

 

If you’re in the market for better, more reliable data and forecasts, check us out here: https://consulting.neoweather.us

 

 

 

 

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About Mark Spencer

Mark Spencer joined Neoweather in August of 2010 and has lived in Northeast Ohio for most of his life. Mark has played a vital role in helping Neoweather to advance and grow. Currently he serves as the Client Services Director and Assistant Financial Director for Neoweather, overseeing client relations and managing the company’s finances. Outside of Neoweather, Mark works as an Air Traffic Controller and holds an Associate’s Degree in Air Traffic Control. He enjoys being outdoors and spends as much time as he can with his son and his wife Loretta.
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