University of Washington atmospheric scientists are paddling in to the citizen science crowdsourcing wave.
They’ve released a free Android app called pressureNET for tablets and smartphones to collect and map barometric pressure data around the world. They hope to improve short-term, local weather forecasting with the flood of new readings.
PressureNET, now installed on more than 10,000 devices, makes use of pressure sensors built into a growing number of smartphones and tablets. The newest version of the app provides a lives stream of data to scientists and forecasters.
“With this approach we could potentially have tens or hundreds of thousands of additional surface pressure observations, which could significantly improve short-term weather forecasts,” says Cliff Mass, a UW atmospheric sciences professor.
Mass hopes a steady stream of pressure data, especially from areas with fewer observation stations like in the Midwest, could help researchers better understand what happens when air masses collide. These collisions create the violent, tornado-spawning thunderstorms that plague the middle of the country.
“Thunderstorms are one of the areas of weakest skill for forecasting,” Mass says. “They are relatively small-scale, they develop over a few hours, they can be severe and can affect people significantly. I think this could be one of the next major revolutions in weather forecasting, really enhancing our ability to forecast at zero to four hours.”