Why Do Different Weather Apps Have Different Forecasts?

iStock
iStock

People have been trying to predict the weather for thousands of years. You’d think that by now we’d have it sorted out—yet open three different weather apps on your phone and you’ll probably find three slightly different forecasts. How hard can it be to get the weather right?

Pretty hard. Even weather experts agree that meteorology is “an art as much as a science.” Our instruments have come a very long way since the weather rock, and computer modeling allows us to capture and process huge quantities of data. Ultimately, though, a forecast comes down to one thing: the forecaster’s judgment.

Weather apps are like weather reports on TV, which never seem to match up, either. That’s because each app or station uses its own systems and formulas to predict the meteorological future.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters is the founder of Weather Underground. “You start with the same fundamental mathematical equations that govern the motion of the atmosphere,” he told The Virginian Pilot. “But the coding is different.”

Every forecaster starts with the same raw data, a “firehose” of information pouring in from satellites, radar, and weather stations around the world. From there, they have to decide how to process that data, and which variables will be relevant for any given situation.

No matter what channel you watch, site you visit, or app you download, you’re going to have to make room for a little error. Meteorologists call their forecasts “guidance,” not “the future.”

Some apps’ guidance hits the mark more often than others, but the best weather app for you depends on what you want.

The Weather Underground app (iOS, Android) is free and super-detailed. The Weather Channel (iOS, Android) is also free but focuses more on social media, allowing users to share weather updates with friends. Dark Sky ($3.99, iOS, Android) is hyperlocal and immediate, focused only on the present moment and the next few hours. For true weather nerds, there’s RadarCast Elite ($1.99, iOS), which offers high-definition radar imaging so you can watch that pressure system roll in.

[h/t The Virginian Pilot]

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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5 Ways to Help Victims of the West Coast’s Wildfires

A wildfire near Shaver Lake, California, earlier this month.
A wildfire near Shaver Lake, California, earlier this month.
David McNew/Getty Images

Wildfires continue to ravage millions of acres across California, Oregon, and Washington, and strong winds forecasted in some of those regions could aggravate the blazes. To prevent future fires, we need to focus on combating climate change through policy reform and sustainable living. But for people directly affected by the fires, their current needs are much more urgent: food, shelter, and funds. Here are five organizations that can help you help victims.

1. Red Cross

The Red Cross has about 600 workers coordinating meal distribution, installing victims in shelters and hotels, and providing other support across Northern California. You can donate to the cause by choosing “Western Wildfires” under “I Want to Support” on the donation page here.

2. GoFundMe

GoFundMe’s affiliated nonprofit, GoFundMe.org, has created a Wildfire Relief Fund for this particular outbreak of fires on the West Coast. You can make a donation to the overall fund here, or you can explore the separate hubs in the description to find individual GoFundMe pages to give to.

3. Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation

Unfortunately, the city of Los Angeles doesn’t allocate enough public funds to the fire department to equip firefighters with all the important gear they need. The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation tries to fill those demands by providing things like hydration backpacks, thermal-imaging cameras, brush-clearing tools, and more. You can donate to the general fund here, or choose a specific fire station from the dropdown menu.

4. VEMAnet

VEMAnet (Volunteers for the Emergency Management of Animals Network), is an offshoot of the Good Shepherd Foundation, which links animal owners who need emergency help with volunteers who can transport and/or house their animals—anything from cats to cattle—temporarily. You can post details about what animals you can accommodate here; and if you or someone you know needs help evacuating any pets, you can request help or browse available listings here.

5. California Fire Foundation

The California Fire Foundation’s Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency (SAVE) program distributes $250 gift cards to wildfire victims, so they can decide for themselves what their most pressing needs are. You can donate here.