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the rise and fall of the best and worst weather app ever.

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At the end of this year, Dark Sky — the popular, sophisticated, and sometimes accurate weather app — will be shutting down and its various components will be obscurely incorporated into Apple’s improved weather tool. The app was created by developers Jack Turner and Adam Grossman in his 2011, raising just under $40,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. During its operation, it has built up a loyal following who use it to keep track of the weather daily, hourly and even minute by minute. Now, the beloved iOS app will stop working completely on his January 1st, as the Android version has already ended.

I was a late adopter of smartphones, but I remember Dark Sky when it first came out. Suddenly, everyone I knew was a meteorologist, pulling out pocket-sized radar displays to chime in about whether the baseball game was postponed or the wedding was moved indoors.
A standout feature of the app was a radar map that allowed users to see storms (rendered in electric blue and neon magenta) hitting their area in real time. Maybe I didn’t understand how pressure, temperature and humidity interact to create a weather system, but with radar, while waiting for the system to pass under the bus shelter, Anyone could act like a meteorologist.

Was it perfect? God no. Another thing that stood out about Dark Sky was that it wasn’t very good. Dark Sky’s forecasts were unreliable for hikes, bike trips, park days, beach days, birthdays, and more. You name it, that neon ruined it with her map siren song. It led me to over-plan outdoor activities and pack for them. Prior to the boat trip, the forecast failed to predict an impending microburst (an extremely localized weather system) and left us stranded on the surface in 40 knots winds with the lives of two people at stake. . This app could have killed me.

“If there is snow, rain, or a complex storm, use the app garbage. “

— Jack Drake

Yet the charm was real. I’ve kept the app on my phone for years and have continued to study its predictions. , when the sky was filled with terrifying clouds, it could feel like the software was basically guessing which ones would break. I diversified my weather news and explored an assortment of online tools such as: weather underground When wind finder For situations where an accurate prediction is required for safety considerations. But Dark Sky was there when a storm appeared on the horizon. It was the easiest way I knew to find out what its shape was and guess how long the upcoming heavy rains would last. Within seconds, I could tell if I was there or if it was just a thin band of rain passing quickly.

Meteorologists, though notable, have never shared my enthusiasm.

“It was processing images,” The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast, “Instead of using physics to predict the weather” Weather Machine It delves into the science and history of the complex systems, processes, and innovations that underpin global weather forecasting. Blum’s book delves into prediction layer by layer, summarizing how the various components fit together to do the seemingly impossible.

Dark skies, widely despised by weather scientists, weren’t cut.

“Weather forecasts over two hours, computer forecasts over two hours, depend on weather models, supercomputer models that work according to the laws of physics. But when we talk about Dark Skies, it just takes radar visual input and guesses what happens in the next few hours.

In fact, Dark Sky’s big innovation wasn’t just that the maps were gorgeous and easy to use: Radar Maps was predict. Instead of getting information about pressure, humidity, temperature, and calculating all the pesky variables that contribute to weather, we’re using satellites, weather stations, balloons, buoys, and scientists working together around the world. Troops (see Blum’s book) — Dark Sky simply monitored changes in shape, size, speed, and direction of shapes on a radar map and fast-forwarded through those images. “It wasn’t meteorology,” Blum said. “It was just a graphic exercise.”

“If you’re experiencing snow, rain, or a complex storm, throw the app in the trash,” says Connecticut-based meteorologist Jack Drake.Drake isn’t the stocky old security guard type frustrated by trends After graduating from college in 2017, he took weather outside the traditional TV path into the app age by sharing forecasts for western Connecticut on social media and making local media appearances during more severe storms. started an academic career. These storms (alas, for apps like Dark Sky) can change size and shape dramatically in a short amount of time. Clouds that seem harmless at first can become dangerous. The atmosphere is full of invisible changes in temperature, pressure and humidity that greatly affect the course of weather phenomena. Most of these are invisible to a simple radar.

“I don’t do traditional five-day forecasts,” says Drake. “I try to cater to what I do towards what people find most useful, but it’s not a 75-degree sunny day. Complex systems can make a difference. ” Dark Sky fell short.

Other meteorologists see the app’s demise as an opportunity. AccuWeather’s chief meteorologist, Jonathan Porter, pointed to the group’s own app for soon to be a weather orphan. Unlike Dark Sky, its developers were more or less bragging when they first launched the app. it wasn’t Meteorological scientists (they used to small face, an app designed to scientifically measure how small someone can make their face), the AccuWeather team has over 100 meteorologists who interpret and explain the output of weather forecast models. increase. “The way we do it here is to take all the world-class weather technology and fuse it with the expertise of meteorologists,” Porter said.

Why did Apple buy Dark Sky anyway? apple weather By pointing out that some of Dark Sky’s key features are integrated into weather manipulation. This is a service that uses Apple data to charge other weather apps to power the platform. The best part of Dark Sky, the beautiful radar map and its “next hour precipitation” forecast, is being used to power the service as Apple seeks to compete as a more leading provider of forecast data. increase. In other words, Apple aims to be a weather data provider, not a weather data customer.

But for some loyal users, Dark Sky will always be more than these scrap parts. Many remember it as a cultural event. This app (and probably others like it) has made a big difference in how people around me use weather forecasts. It’s easy to forget how it was in 2010, but most of us got our once-a-day forecasts from professional meteorologists on our TVs and buggy websites. The apps that came with early smartphones were just a rudimentary percentage of the chances of it raining or snowing at a particular time on a particular day. Accurate minute-by-minute forecasts have been tools of climbers and maritime workers. Their lives and livelihoods depended on knowing exactly what the sky was doing and when. People like me got by without so much detail until we weren’t.

Perhaps my most satisfying experience with Dark Sky was when I had no intention of going out at all. Especially when the weather is changing at night, the real-time radar screen was my favorite place to watch the rain or snow swirls crawling through my neighborhood from the comfort of my home. Hypnotic blues and purples Seeing it live was soothing, even if the shape of the map wasn’t the basis for a perfect long-term forecast. Sky felt like the rough edges of the weather forecast had been honed to something palatable and digestible. A storm came in and passed by with a slight change of shape. I avoided the magenta part and was safe. I was dry with the blue part out of the way. It was an orderly illusion, and it worked too well to be true – but I, among many others, was a willing illusion. Indulge.

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