weather app

The Business Risks of Relying on Weather Apps


August 20, 2018

Basic weather data is easily and abundantly available, thanks to technology and the development of thousands of mobile weather applications. Your weather app of choice can help you decide what to wear, where to go, when to change plans, etc., but how reliable is the information supplied by these apps? Reliable enough to support critical business decisions? StormGeo Senior Meteorologist, Dave Gorham, discusses what makes some weather apps “good,” but perhaps not “good enough” for business.

Before I get started, let me ask a few questions from a user’s perspective. If basic weather data (think temperature, rain and wind) is readily available, why don’t weather apps all have the same level of accuracy? Along these lines, why wouldn’t the forecast you get in your weather app be just as accurate as one from the news or a ‘reputable’ source?

The simple answer is that all weather apps rely on computer weather models, and those models are not created equal. Forecasts based solely on computer models are often less accurate on an ongoing and consistent basis. Some may start out strong but fall apart later if they are not being supervised. In fact, the most accurate forecasts often rely on a combination of the best features from several different models. Thus, the key to getting the most out of these models is to have a meteorologist interpret and consider all the data – creating a forecast that combines the best model information with their professional knowledge and expertise.

Of course, money also plays a role. The resources poured into a weather app’s development will largely affect the resulting forecasts. Integrating and utilizing the necessary computer models can be costly — the more accurate models are quite expensive, while other, less robust models are much less expensive or free.

This helps explain why apps provide different forecasts, or why in your app, today’s forecast is accurate while yesterday’s was off.

Where to Get the Best Weather Data for Your Needs

For those who need to know when to evacuate, shut down their business, or deploy other mitigation plans:

For important business decisions, especially those that affect the safety of employees and/or customers or that could have large financial impacts, it is vital that business leaders rely on trusted weather intelligence from experienced meteorologists. Unfortunately, there is currently no freely available weather app on the market that provides the necessary level of accuracy or detail in the information provided or that gives you the ability to consult directly with meteorologists.

Furthermore, weather conditions vary greatly from location to location, so having a forecast for your city may not be enough to tell you how your specific location (or locations) will be affected.

In these situations, it’s important to partner with a team of meteorologists who understand how certain storms are moving and developing, the vulnerabilities of your specific business, and the financial impacts your business could sustain should you make (or fail to make) an impactful decision.

For example, during Hurricane Irma in 2017, a hospital in Indianapolis, Medxcel, weighed the options of evacuating all patients. This decision would have huge financial repercussions, as well as be a potentially stressful or life-threatening situation for patients. The hospital's operations team conferred with tropical experts at StormGeo, which were able to track the storm and provide necessary weather intelligence so that the hospital could make their critical decisions with confidence. With Irma nearing landfall, they opted to not evacuate, a decision that eliminated what would have been an unnecessary evacuation after the storm caused only minimal damage and zero harm to staff and patients.

For those who want to know if they’ll need their umbrella:

The weather app on your device is the result of a wide variety of meteorological and non-meteorological decisions that differ from app to app. If you’re unhappy with your current weather app, meteorology is likely not to blame. The best apps rely on a team of meteorologists who constantly analyze, adjust and harness their expertise to ensure the app’s best performance. Try to avoid apps that are on computer “auto-pilot.”

Your best bet is to subscribe to an app that has been designed around a trusted and experienced team of meteorologists and serves as a conduit between the specific needs of your business and the meteorologists themselves. These apps utilize top-performing computer models, will provide ongoing and consistent forecast accuracy and – thanks to the meteorologists behind the app – will always prioritize the needs of your business.