Your cellphone is a miracle of modern science. Along with all the features we think of most phones also have an array of sensors. Nowadays most smartphones know which way is up, how brightly lit their environment is and even have a feel for the Earth’s magnetic field!
Some phones can even sense the weather. That’s a big deal. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 knows the barometer, temperature and humidity.
Some clever geeks realized if they could assemble all this environmental sniffing it might add enough new observed data points to be useful. So began “WeatherSignal,” an Android app (sorry iPhone folks) which sucks this info off your phone for further analysis.
Understand, as weather observation platforms go your phone alone isn’t very good. The temperature in your pocket, purse or family room isn’t the same as the temperature outside. However, once you look at light sensor readings and combine hundreds or thousands of temperature and pressure observations, a pretty accurate picture emerges.
We’re still on the ground floor. A few universities and government weather offices have begun looking at this data and trying to find ways to use it to improve short term forecasts. Over time suites of sensors like what’s inside the S4 will become more, not less, common.
It’s sort of crazy to think the next breakthrough in weather forecasting might not demand satellites or super computers. In fact the next breakthrough weather observatory might be in your pocket right now. Crazy!