How To Predict The Weather When Your Apps Give You Conflicting Forecasts

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The unpredictability of the weather forces me to consult a minimum of two weather apps before deciding if it’s safe to bike to work. But, more often than not, one app will tell me it’s going to be clear all day, and the other will predict a 30 per cent chance of rain. What to do?

Screenshot: Melissa Kirsch, Dark Sky; Weather Channel; WUnderground

The two apps I use are Dark Sky (which isn't available in Australia) and Weather Underground for iOS. I can’t tell you which is more accurate; I can only tell you they rarely agree.

The best rule of thumb for determining if you should bike to work, squeeze in that run or bring an umbrella when the apps’ forecasts conflict is to exercise a negativity bias. That is, believe the forecast with the worse news.

If Dark Sky says “Overcast” and Wunderground says “30 per cent chance of showers,” believe Wunderground and grab your umbrella. This way you’re prepared for the worst.

You probably have a negativity bias in other areas of your life where it isn’t helping you — you take criticism more seriously than you do compliments. In most other aspects of your life, negativity bias does you no favours. When it comes to the weather, lean into it.

The other factor, of course, is your gut — or, as Lifehacker staff writer Nick Douglas puts it, “Look with your face.” You’d think such advice were too facile to even state, but the whole reason we’re checking our apps is because we don’t trust ourselves to tell the weather.

If both apps say the coast is clear but there are definitely dark clouds looming, you should assume you, living here in this moment and place in time in the world, know what you are observing, which is that it is going to rain.


Comments

    The BoM maintains a very credible and reliable service on weather prediction. there App is good as well. If you want to judge rainfall yourself bring up the rain radar and make a guess on rates of front movement and actual rainfall.

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