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What Happened To The Forecast?

The website’s featured forecast provider, Weather Underground (WU), announced a change in policy last month. They were no longer going to allow free, limited access to their raw forecast data (API). Instead, they would begin charging hundreds per month even to those who contribute data like we do. Since this site generates no revenue, the new price tag is a nonstarter.

I’ve been exploring alternatives in hopes of continuing to offer dual forecasts. None of them have met my requirements of accuracy and affordability. Therefore, I’ve decided the National Weather Service (NWS) will be the sole forecast provider for marquetteweather.com.

In addition, the hourly forecast will not be replaced due to problems inherent in the forecasting process. Presently, the software-based weather models do not adequately represent the transient effects of the Great Lakes frequently leading to significant errors exceeding our forecast target of +/- 3 degrees. Plus, the forecasts don’t update often enough to keep pace with our weather. Routine changes in wind direction, cloud cover or precipitation can transform conditions in a matter of minutes — as most Marquetters intuitively understand. 

Elusive Lake Superior - Weather Maker
The ever elusive Lake Superior

This raises a larger philosophical question. What value is added to the site by including consistently incorrect information? Unacceptable answers include: “everyone else is doing it” and “traffic retention” No, rather this site affirms its commitment to accuracy over eyeballs.

Another heresy I confess openly is a commitment to a usable, efficient site over a trendy, bloated one. Put differently, the site won’t sacrifice education for stimulation. There are plenty of content-packed weather apps with modern aesthetics that are wrong more often than right. Why would we compete on that already-packed field?

This website is unique in its ability to broadcast accurate, real-time weather conditions in Marquette. Presenting “ground truth” reality, past and present, remains our priority.

We’ve been tracking temperature forecasts in Marquette for over a year now. In that time, the National Weather Service has been within 3 degrees of recorded highs and lows for the same-day forecast approximately 70% of the time (WU about 75%). That’s excellent considering Marquette, with twin northern and eastern exposures to the lake, is brutal on forecasters!

Admittedly, the NWS offers less forecast data to work with (fewer days & parameters). For instance, the graphical/quick forecast will no longer include winds and precipitation amounts. As alluded to above, these parameters were often incorrect. The further you went out, the worse it got. You’ll now find much of that information within the Detailed Forecast section.

Turning off Weather Underground forecasts also puts an end to the sky condition at the top of the conditions section. This was generated by a computer and, again, was too often wrong. In its place I’ve added 24 hour weather history thumbnails that expand into full size graphs with a tap or a click. You can now see the temperature and wind trends at a glance.

What began as a crisis ends as an improvement. Truth be told, it’s taken herculean efforts to keep the Weather Underground forecast online due to their chronically dysfunctional infrastructure. Having only one forecast provider lightens the maintenance load. Also, we can now feature the National Weather Service’s more refined and descriptive forecast icons. This should please the visually-oriented and skimmers alike.

When making changes we always strive for additional ease, clarity, and spatial economy. Obviously, our choices are not everyone’s, perhaps not even yours. But we hope you’ll understand our reasoning and continue to find the site a valuable resource.

 

 

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