Weathernews thinks crowdsourcing is the future of weather

Andrew Freedman at Mashable: “The weather forecast of the future will be crowdsourced, if one Japanese weather firm sees its vision fulfilled.

On Monday, Weathernews Inc. of Japan announced a partnership with the Chinese firm Moji to bring Weathernews’ technology to the latter company’s popular MoWeather app.

The benefit for Weathernews, in addition to more users and entry into the Chinese market, is access to more data that can then be turned into weather forecasts.

The company says that this additional user base, when added to its existing users, will make Weathernews “the largest crowdsourced weather service in the world,” with 420 million users across 175 countries.


…So far, though, mobile phones have not proven to be more reliable weather sensors than the network of thousands of far more expensive and specialized surface weather observation sites throughout the world, but crowdsourcing’s day in the sun may be close at hand. As Weathernews leaders were quick to point out to Mashable in an interview, the existing weather observing network on which most forecasts rely has significant drawbacks that makes crowdsourcing especially appealing outside the U.S.

For example, most surface weather stations are in wealthy nations, primarily in North America and Europe. There’s a giant forecasting blind spot over much of Africa, where many countries lack a national weather agency. However, these countries do have rapidly growing mobile phone networks that, if utilized in certain ways, could provide a way to fill in data gaps and make weather forecasts more accurate, too.

“At Weathernews, we have a core belief that more weather data is better,” said Weathernews managing director Tomohiro Ishibashi.

“So having access to the additional datasets from MoWeather’s vast user community allows us to provide more accurate and safer weather forecasting for all,” he said. “Our advanced algorithms analyze these new datasets and put them in our existing computer forecasting models.”

Weathernews is trying to use observations that most weather companies might regard as interesting but not worth the effort to tailor for computer modeling. For example, photos of clouds are a potential way to ground truth weather satellite imagery, Ishibashi told Mashable.

“For us the picture of the sky… has a lot of information,” he said. (The company’s website refers to such observations as “eye-servation.”)…

Compared to Weathernews’ ambitions, AccuWeather’s recent decision to incorporate crowdsourced data into its iOS app seems more traditional, like a TV weather forecaster adding a few new “weather watchers” to their station’s network during local television’s heyday in the 1980s and 90s.

Now, we’re all weather watchers….(More)”