People start tracking the weather for all sorts of reasons. You might be an aviation enthusiast or a keen gardener. You could be a volunteer firefighter or you simply have received an indoor weather station for a birthday present.
However it starts, one thing is for sure – it’s easy to become a weather addict!
But once you start collecting all that awesome data, you don’t want to just keep it for yourself. There are a lot of opportunities to share your information with other enthusiastic amateurs. Feeding your data into global databases improves our overall knowledge and the accuracy of weather information. It can even help professional bodies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the USA, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) in Australia, or the Met Office in the UK.
Getting started with weather data sharing
If you’re keen to contribute to the global weather network, the first thing you’ll want to do is hook up your weather station to one of the data gathering sites on the web. Whether you have a fully kitted out weather station on your roof, or a wireless indoor thermometer, the data is more useful if it’s shared!
If you have invested in a high-end station, it will come with a dashboard so that you can view your information on your computer or phone. Once you’re set up, you’ll be able to register with a weather sharing site and start collaborating with a global community immediately.
Your weather station will have information about how to get set up on the web. Whichever network you join will also have detailed steps to get your data from your station and into their global databases.
Why share your data?
Sharing is about give and take and local weather networks are no different! The power of weather data sharing is two-fold – it helps at a global level, and at a hyperlocal level.
At a global level, sharing your weather data improves our overall knowledge of the planet’s weather and climate. National weather bodies only have a finite number of stations. They position them at regular intervals leaving huge gaps in between, especially in rural or forested areas. The addition of thousands of smaller personal stations improves the accuracy of the data for everyone.
Having all those extra data points also means that professionals are better able to find correlations between weather changes and extreme weather events. This is the age of big data. With powerful computers, that data can be crunched and predictions become more accurate.
There is also a growing body of enthusiastic amateur meteorologists who draw on this data to make predictions. Without the pressure of being a government body, these amateurs can make riskier assumptions which often turn out to be more correct than the official forecasts!
At a local or hyperlocal level, sharing data makes it easier to provide and find information that is really specific to your needs. For example, national meteorological departments don’t optimise their data for fishing enthusiasts. They provide broad information that is useful to the general population. By utilising a weather network, you can find out the exact weather conditions at your favourite fishing hole.
Weather forecasts are often centred on cities or major metropolises. But weather conditions in a suburb could be dramatically different due to a local golf course or higher altitude. Even the streets of a town can make a difference, with the material or width changing the ambient temperature.
Hyperlocal data is especially useful when it comes to rain and snowfall. Just because there’s 30 centimetres of snow at the airport where the official weather station is situated, doesn’t mean you’ll have the same situation two suburbs over!
Where to share your data?
Once you decide that you want to join a weather network, you’ll need to find the one that’s right for you.
The most popular global community is Weather Underground with more than 250,000 stations in its network. They say that their aim is to “make the highest quality weather information available to every person on this planet.” They provide visualisations of data and the ability to archive your information for future use. Weather Underground also has mobile apps for Android and iOS.
At a local level, you can find smaller communities which service your area, region or state. For example, in the US there is the Alaskan Weather Network, Mid-Atlantic Weather Network, and North American Weather Network. Australians can check out the Australian Weather Network and in Europe there are several networks that are country-specific.
Big data is the way of the future, and weather data is no different. The more information we can gather and process, the better we can predict weather events. Whether that’s for dramatic wildfires and floods, or something as simple as ski conditions, we all want to know what the weather is! If you have the opportunity to contribute to the global weather network, we all benefit. And for that, we thank you.