A post over on Signal Vs. Noise got me thinking about weather forecasting.
At least here in the Midwest (where weather occasionally kills you), the weather forecast is usually a very long affair consisting of discussions on front movements, dew points, barometric pressures, etc. Over time, we’ve all become accustomed to the weather man showing us all these fancy visualizations of the weather data. I know of at least one station here in Sioux Falls where the local news consists of the ‘First Look Weather’, the Top Story, the Current Conditions, another news story, the Weather Forecast, a little more news, and a Weather Wrap-Up. If they’re short on news, they throw in a ‘Weather Almanac’ piece to boot.
Why are the TV weather men trying to turn us into meteorologists? Basic knowledge of meteorology is probably the subject from grade school earth sciences that we use the most in our day to day lives, even though there’s a professional there to sort it all out for us. But why do we watch the weather? Just a few basic reasons, mostly:
- How should I dress myself and the kids today?
- Is it going to be nice enough to do something outside?
- If I start something outside now (mowing, hiking), will it turn crappy before I get done?
- If there’s something I need to do outside (yard work), should I do it now or another day this week?
So why doesn’t the weather forecast consist of this?
“Wear coats to work tomorrow. Don’t bother bringing sunglasses. If you need to mow, do it tonight, because it’s going to rain tomorrow morning.”
With all of the usability wonks running around on the Internet, you’d think that online forecasts would be better. But most of them are just trying to offer an online version of what’s on TV.
Weatherpixie.com at least takes a different stab at the weather, if only for the current conditions. You can get a little cartoon person standing in what appears to be your current conditions. It seems to put form over function, though. It’s fairly lousy weather here right now, but my little cartoon person has a t-shirt on. If she was my kid, I’d at least tell her to wear sleeves.
Instead of a little app that sits in the system tray and shows a sun or clouds with the current temp, I’d like to see one that looks out over the remainder of the day, makes some decisions, and shows a picture of a sweater, or an umbrella, or shorts. It could have little overlay icons for things like expected precipitation within the next few hours, or if precipitation is expected tomorrow. Or, even simpler, something that indicates when in the next few days is the best time to be outside. That’s all I really need to know. How should I dress, and when should I do my outside stuff?
So, am I just off on a rant here? Am I missing something? Are there other situations where our day-to-day data can be simplified? Let me know.