95% chance of rain in the next 15 minutes; it's been raining for an hour
April 9, 2018 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Why is facebook a better weather app than what I have on my phone, and can I use whatever they use instead of the useless garbage I'm using?

The little "be ready for rain tomorrow!" etc weather updates that facebook will occasionally serve me in the top of my feed are closer to accurate almost every time than the two(!) weather apps I use on my phone. I have the Yahoo weather app and the weather widget that came baked into my Moto phone, and both of them give slightly different info and kind of suck. (Yes, before you ask, they're both set to the same, correct location.)

Case in point: last night facebook told me to be ready for snow this morning. Facebook is light on detail, so I went over to Yahoo weather to look at what was on forecast--cold! but no snow. Checked on the weather widget--also cold! but also no snow. It is indeed snowing this morning, and the only one who knew was facebook.

What tool is facebook using to find out what my weather's gonna be, and can I use it myself, separate from facebook?
posted by phunniemee to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure which tool Facebook is using, but when I started to hate my phone's built in weather app and the Weather Channel app kept crashing for no reason, I downloaded the Weather Underground app, and it's been pretty reliable.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:44 AM on April 9, 2018 [12 favorites]

Weather Underground gets my vote as well.
posted by deezil at 7:02 AM on April 9, 2018

I use a thing called Forecaster (also available for Apple phones). I like it because (i) it seems to be correct most of the time, particularly with respect to rain starting/stopping over the next hour, and (ii) because it strips the presentation down to what matters.
posted by pipeski at 7:12 AM on April 9, 2018

Weather Underground used to be hands down the best. It's still fine but it was acquired by The Weather Channel a few years back and now they're very similar in terms of the forecast you get.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:37 AM on April 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

This says Weather Underground, The Weather Channel, and Accuweather have the highest accuracy rates.

(I usually check multiple forecasts and have trouble remembering all of them and get extremely confused.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:39 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

nthing Weather Underground for short term forecast - ie, next day or two.

For immediate-term forecast (ie, "It's lunchtime and I'm going to take a walk, do I need an umbrella"), I've found Dark Sky on iOS to be very reliable.
posted by neilbert at 7:42 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Dark Sky. I use it on Android and it's fantastic -- rain down to the minute. Sometimes I don't notice it's raining, look at the app, and there it is.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:00 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Agreed that Weather Underground is solid. I use it for hiking forecasts in the notoriously-meteorologically-fickle White Mountains (as well as for other everyday weather forecasting purposes) and it's always pretty much spot on out to about 24 hours, and mostly reliable out to about 72 hours. Sometimes their hour-by-hour forecasts don't quite match up with their "what's happening right now" indicator but in practice this is rarely a real problem.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:02 AM on April 9, 2018

Are you in the US? We have several different forecasts here because we're blessed to have public, free weather data provided by the US government. That allows services like Dark Sky and Accuweather's Minutecast to make hyperlocal minute by minute weather forecasts. Largely by looking at a satellite image of precipitation and predicting exactly when the rain is coming exactly where you are.

I suspect Facebook is using one of those services although the linked Techcrunch article above makes me doubt myself a bit; I don't think weather.com does this hyperlocal thing.
posted by Nelson at 8:02 AM on April 9, 2018

Oh, they do have terrible, terrible ads though and if you want to get rid of them you have to pay for a 🤢 subscription. There's no "one and done" premium version.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:03 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a long-time user of Dark Sky / forecast.io, which afaik is an aggregator of other weather feeds with some Secret Sauce for combining them into a single prediction. It generally seems more accurate than either weather.com or wunderground.com, and certainly has a much better UI.

I should mention as caveat, though, that there were a couple days this last winter where its predictions were wildly incorrect (both times predicting feet of snow on days when it was obvious from the satellite view that we'd get at most a light dusting). Not sure what was up with that, or whether it was specific to my location or what; other than those anomalies it seems to me to generally have been more accurate (and less pessimistic) than the competition.
posted by ook at 8:07 AM on April 9, 2018

I rely mainly on Weather Underground.

I also use Radar Express (goes straight to a better radar, faster than WU) when I'm I'm looking to squeeze an hour's bike ride in before rain arrives, for instance.

And several areas in the US have specialty? weather watching services, for instance Capital Weather Gang. Eastern PA Weather Authority is another one. They focus on the local area and the snow forecasts tend to be better; I haven't really relied on them for daily use.
posted by Dashy at 8:07 AM on April 9, 2018

I use Weather Underground (though I'm old enough to be uneasy about the name) for the current outlook and forecast, but specifically for short-term rain predictions, I go with Dark Sky. The free version is good enough for what I need.

If you happen to have an Amazon Echo or similar amazon device, load a skill called Big Sky, which has a more verbose weather report. I can say "Alexa, Ask Big Sky about rain," and I get the wind and rain report including predictions on the start or end of rain in the next couple hours.

In my experience, both are great at predicting the start of rain, and little better than chance at predicting the end of rain. However, I live in Seattle; the only reliable end-of-rain forecast is to predict it'll end on July 5th.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I used Dark Sky, which told me there'd be negligible snow, stopping early today. I don't know about your office, but at mine, we've got more than an inch on the ground and it's still coming down. The weather widget on my phone links to accuweather.com which was similarly wrong about today.

Generally, I find Dark Sky and Accuweather to be in sync with each other, even when they are not in sync with outside. They are both about as accurate as any weather predictions, which is why I keep auxiliary gear in my office.
posted by crush at 9:56 AM on April 9, 2018

Related to what you're asking - Nate Silver's book touched on the fact that consumer-oriented weather services (weather.com, weather channel, etc.) tend to overpredict precipitation on days that have a marginal chance of rain (so fewer than 80% of the days with an "80% chance of rain" actually see rain). That's a contrast to science-oriented weather services (national weather service, noaa, probably wunderground), which are pretty accurate in the aggregate.

He posits that the reason for that is that people hate being surprised by rain (and will remember those days and question the accuracy of those reports going forward) but that they see unexpectedly clear days as a pleasant and unremarkable gift, so essentially those services boost the chances of precipitation on days that genuinely may or may not see some.

It's possible that the difference in accuracy you see is due to patterns like that.

please note that this anecdote is quoted from memory, and I read the book a while ago, so I may not have some of the details quite right.
posted by mosst at 12:55 PM on April 9, 2018

Another vote for Dark Sky.
posted by epo at 1:13 PM on April 9, 2018

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