Blog posts tagged "weather"

Weather over Twitter

January 12th, 2007

Too Close!!!

And while we’re talking about recent hacks, Blaine and I whipped up a Jabber bot using his Jabber::Simple and the Yahoo weather feeds, to provide twice daily weather updates via Twitter.

Jabber is an intriguing platform to build on top of, and the more I play with it the more potential I find. I keep checking in on it every few years (since MetaEvents days), but recently its gotten much more interesting. In part thats Google’s adoption of the standard (and the subsequent enhancement in tools, libraries, and clients), and partially standards bake slowly, but at the core of it I think we’re reaching a point in the evolution of the Web where Internet-scale deployed messaging standards have a lot to offer of us. A protocol for when HTTP fails you.

If you follow these bots, you’ll receive those updates wherever you normally get your Twitters; IM, Phone, RSS, or just on the web. So far, we have bots for the following cities: Boston, Brighton, Chicago, Helsinki, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Singapore, and Vancouver. If you’d like to see another city, just ask and we’ll provide.

Slightly out of date source available at twitter-weather – Google Code

And taking requests for new cities. Probably do a big batch of new ones sometime next week. (not really an automated process)

Photo by bonsaikiptb

Snow: A Four Letter Word

October 29th, 2005

In October. Unbelievable. See you all in May. (just in time for Boston’s new tornado season?)

"Snow is a four letter word,
no is the only part of the word that I heard, 
call me morbid or absurd"
– with apologies to Cake


**update 2005-11-1: ** In fairness to Boston, every day since has been stunningly beautiful, sunny and 70 degrees. Supremely odd weather to have after getting several inches of snow.

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Yahoo! Weather RSS

September 1st, 2005

Weather over RSS is something I experimented with a bunch, but I got sick of writing scrapers for the data. Every now and then someone (including the NWS) will launch weather feeds, and I’ll hope the problem has been solved, and I can cross it off my todo list. But alas it never is.

Now Yahoo Weather has feeds, and they’re the best I’ve seen in that the data is actually structured enough to re-use. Problem solved.

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Thunderstorm in Boston

August 2nd, 2005

Okay, blogging about the weather is almost as bad as blogging about cats, but was anyone else woken by last night’s storm? At least here in Jamaica Plain I was counting 30-40 lightning strikes a minute, we had strikes in our backyard, the thunder sounded like the end of the world, and it all went on for at least an hour.

Impressive and a bit scary, never seen anything like it.

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Where Bowers of Flowers Bloom in the Spring

March 5th, 2004

You know things have gotten pretty bad when you find yourself looking forward to a week under the clear blue skies of warm and sunny San Francisco.

update: turns out I wasn’t kidding. Record setting heats. In the 80s! (its still SF)

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The Word from on High

November 14th, 2003

LA buried under a foot of hail! Fires, earthquakes, and now freak hail storms. There is a God, and she is pissed about this whole recall thing.

My one question, where did they find a snow shovel in Los Angeles?

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National Weather Service’s XML Feeds

November 12th, 2003

The NWS recently decloaked their experimental RSS feeds of weather watches, warnings, and alerts. They are soliciting feedback until Dec. 30th.

Check it out, and if you think it is cool as I do, and you think that the National Weather Service should be producing weather information in a public, easily accessible format, instead of having to buy that information from some commercial company, then you should contact them and tell them how excited you are to see this service. (because you know the vendors are going to scream when they see it)

Now that the NWS is almost ready to start issuing weather data on a 5kmx5km grid, Bob has said that they see their “future more like you give us a lat/long and we feed back xml for that ‘gridpoint’.” How cool is that?

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October 22nd, 2003

Bah, too many projects, too little time. Until the day when I get back to this project, take a look at these other alternatives.

Someone else has built a nice, clean implementation of weather-over-RSS, see rssWeather. They are using HAMWeather as the backend, rather then a scraper, which is certainly a conceptual improvement, though it seems that HAMWeather is limited to using ICAO codes for non-US locations. (though that is probably scriptable around) Nicely browsable, good web integration.

I think I’ll probably revive my own weather-rss project at some point. (it moved forward a bit last weekend) In particular I still think there is an opportunity to format the weather info, in a more useful, and more semantic fashion. Once I’ve got my working example, I’ll probably be knocking on Tony of OpenWeather’s and’s door, see if we can get some coherence.

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Weather RSS and the Dangers of Screen Scraping

August 24th, 2003

So the Weather RSS service is down right now. The whole thing is driven by screen scraping because the freely available sources of weather info suck (or at least the ones I can find do).

I have a working screen scraper for but unforunately their URLs are relatively obscure. I have some code to mechanize their search form, but they got a bit jumpy, and temporarily blocked my IP while I was tuning it. So I put them on hold, and went with Wunderground.


Well the Wunderground has US and international weather, so that is a plus, and nicely predictable URLs, which really helps when you’re screen scraping. But they HTML sucks. Its very much circa 1997, but more cluttered. Its not a field I have a lot of expirence with, but I thought my scraper was pretty good, but 2 week later it is broken. Ugh.

Haven’t tried yet, years ago when I was last playing with weather, they blocked my IP for scraping (and I’m being well behaved I promise!), don’t know if they still do that, my instinct is not, at least not within reason. However their URLs seem totally arbitrary, probably pegged to an internal numbering scheme. If anyone knows differently that would be great. (Also their editorial voice is insipid, the differnece I suppose between people who study weather for a living, and those who sell it for a living, e.g “Sunny” becomes “Plentiful sunshine”.)

More Domain Knowledge and Directories

Looks like I’m going to have to move away form Wunderground, their HTML just isn’t reliable enough. To do that I’ll need to understand the identifiers the NOAA and are using. The NOAA identifiers are standard I think, but I havne’t found a good documentation of them. The identifiers could probably be fetched by walking their website (or their syndicated Yahoo weather site which has a more directory like structure) The one problem with moving to using the identifiers rather then a search interface is rather then allowing free form entry, one would want to present the users with a deeply nested list of possible choices, which has never worked all that well on the web. I just downloaded WeatherPop (sweet little app btw), who I suspect is also a screen scraper (though I should probalby examine my outgoing traffic before making that claim) to see how it handles this problem, and presenting a drill down list is exactly what it does.

Anyone has other suggestions for data in a workable format, let me know. God knows I hate screen scraping in this day and page (CSS makes it easier, but it feels so backwards)

That and I never quite got conditional gets supported, it was working in Magpie, and at least one of the Windows clients (don’t remember which one) but not in NNW, or most of the other readers.

And last but not least, there is the lovely “Divsion by zero” error I get when trying to view Denver’s weather.

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Brief Weather RSS (un)Update

August 14th, 2003

Still doesn’t work with US cities, stop subscribing to those feeds. All you’ll see is 2 month old data for Providence, RI.

Feedback would be really helpful, for example, one of the most commonly requested feeds Bristol, UK doesn’t work at all. Your responsibility as beta-testers of an experimental tool is to tell me these things.

This has been a pre-coffee blogging session.

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A RSS Weather Service

August 10th, 2003

Landed in Seattle today. It was raining. The city wooed, and won me, and now it can rain. In other news I made a push on the flight out today to try to bash my Weather RSS project into workable order before I starting hacking on other projects full time tomorrow. I got it there, but just barely.

Some caveats

  • Doesn’t work for US cities. Its coming, but I didn’t get to it today.
  • Be gentle, running as a CGI so its slow, and resource intensive.
  • Weather info updates every 3 hours, don’t hit a feed more often then that.
  • Absolutely everything is subject to change, and probably will.
  • Very little in the way of error handling, and robustness checking.

Feedback desired

And the project has its own rss feed.


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RSS mod_weather

July 2nd, 2003

While waiting for interminable parade of yuppie to collect their stream of wet/dry/half-caf/whatever espresso drinks from the coffee shop, (come on people! life is too short to order anything other then “coffee, black”) I had an idea, and scribbled a few notes down on a napkin. (I think thats the first time I’ve ever done that napkin thingy)

Its not really a very exciting idea, but what I was thinking about was an RSS namespace for describing weather syndication. Not much use with the current crop of aggregators, but the next gen like Newsmonster, and Shrook give you much greater access to items outside the core. (and then of course there is the radical idea of using RSS for inter-website syndication!)

As I started thinking about it, I decided that weather doesn’t really fit neatly into one namespace, but wants 3 namespaces: weather, forecast, and storm.

I know that seems kind of excessive, and its possible they could be rolled into a single namespace, but I think a nice hybrid spec, that clearly laid out the relationship between the namespaces, and defined some common practice for temperature and such (more on that later) wouldn’t really be too complicated.

And looking at the data weather reports really come in 3 separate types: current conditions, forecasts, and hazardous weather/storm warnings.

weather: Current Conditions

weather: might include:
  • sky – a prose description of current conditions
  • temp – the current temperature
  • humidity – the percent humidity
  • windspeed – wind speed
  • dewpoint – another temperature
  • heatindex – relative heat, another temp
  • windchill – relative cold, another temp.
  • visibility
(Did I forget any?)

It’s Raining Furlongs

One of the first things you notice with weather is people (ahem, the U.S.) like to use their annoying, region specific measurements. Are temperatures in Fahrenheit or Celsius? Is windspeed miles per hour? kilometers per hour? knots?

Sometimes visibility is noted as “10 miles”, other times as “very good”.

To paraphrase Rich Bowen, “The person who came up with [this system] needs to be taken out an beaten with a yardstick”.

There are a number of potentially complex solutions we could come up with, involving sub-elements, or attributes, or what not, but I thought the easiest would be to require measurements of temperature and distance to be marked unambiguously. So valid temps are 32F or 5C, and a valid windspeed is 13MPH.

One nice thing is none of these scales are all that hard to convert between, but if for example you’re going to calculate windchill, you’ll need to make sure you know if you’re working in Farenheit & miles, or celcius and kilometers.

forecast: Is it going to rain on Tuesday?

Forecast will generally be simpler as there is rarely much info available, still any element from current should be valid in forecast. The idea behind having forecast in a separate namespace is two-fold; forecast has a slightly different set of date, and it provides a simple way to determine whether one is talking about now or the future.

Forecast adds to the elements defined in weather

  • period – prose description, “Today”, “Thursday”, “Tuesday Night”
  • date – the day the forecast is for should one be able to represent a range of dates here? often you’ll see something like “Monday Night – Friday, Partly Cloudy”
  • hi – forecasted high/max temperature for a period
  • lo – forecasted lo/min temp for a period


I haven’t really thought about the Storm namespace yet. The data hear is most radically different then the other two, and I haven’t spent enough time looking at it to determine if there is an underlying set of structured data we can extract or not. But I think something good can be done.

Good idea?

What do you think, seem like a good idea? Sound interesting? Did I miss something obvious?

update [2003/7/2]: Phil pointed out a prototype XML weather service for Medford Country, OR. Very high quality of data. Example output. Too bad this isn’t more widely available.

update [2003/7/3]: Quicktopic discussion on mod_weather

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Weather, RSS, and Thunderstorms

June 22nd, 2003

Tim Bray touched lightly on an idea for a business model I had a while back; that of leveraging RSS’s popularity as a format beyond web syndication. Information like bank services, sales tracking, traffic alerts, and weather.

Its an idea that occurred to me when I first started playing around with delivering events via RSS, and realized that RSS wasn’t an XML file for headlines, but a webservice pipeline I could shove all types of data through.
Sourceforge figured out the same thing, and Technorati has a nice little service (don’t know how “successful” in the business since its been) selling a personalized RSS feed that can watch Google queries, or keep track of who is linking to you.

Tim mentions a few of the same types of feeds I was thinking of, misses a couple, and mentions one I never would have thought of, traffic reports. (being a non-driver and all) Unfortunately/fortunately most of my entrepreneurial flare was burned out of me during the brief years I was running my own little dotcom, and so like a handful of other business models, it sits collecting dust.


Or at least sort of. I did have a brief go at producing an RSS feed of the weather, and last night, as lightning struck all around, and great thunder claps, pealed and rumbled on and on like bombs detonating, their sound waves rattling my winds, and setting off all the car alarms of the apartment building next door, I revived the project.

Read the rest of this entry »

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February 21st, 2003

aaron has released Acme::Test::Weather

Because, you know, it may be important to your Perl module that it’s raining outsid

Also, release 0.0101 of DateTime::Format::W3CDTF hit CPAN last night, but don’t install if issnowing() or lt_celsius(0)

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