Weather with Cliff Mass
9:28 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Your smartphone could turn you into a weather station

  [Feb. 11th Update -- Audio problem fixed]

While the Northeast struggles with a massive snowstorm, the same forces are keeping it mild on the West Coast, says KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.

What are those forces? High pressure and low pressure. Okay, it's more complicated than that, but there is a high pressure "ridge" over the west, which forces a "trough" toward the east.

And, you could help weather forecasters make sense of what's happening with those ridges and troughs--and help produce more accurate, timely forecasts.

Certain of the latest Android smartphones include a pressure sensor inside them, and if you combine that air-pressure info with GPS info, you've suddenly got thousands of new weather stations.

"Why am I so excited about these observations?  Because surface pressure is a uniquely valuable surface observation since it reflects the atmosphere above (surface pressure reflects the weight of the air above the sensor)," Mass writes on his blog.

A new app for those phones, PressureNet3, which Mass helped develop with a tech startup named Cumulonimbus, Inc., sends the data to a secure storehouse. The research team at the U.W.  is working on using the data to create better forecasts.

"We will test our new capabilities on a range of examples, including Midwest convection (thunderstorms) and Pacific Northwest features (like the pesky convergence zone)," Mass writes.

For this week's complete forecast, click the "listen" button above.

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The weekly KPLU feature "Weather with Cliff Mass" airs every Friday at 9 a.m. immediately following BirdNote, and repeats twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KPLU’s Science and Health reporter Keith Seinfeld. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, and a popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to a podcast of “Weather with Cliff Mass” shows.