If humanity has one binding thread, it is quite possibly the weather. It is our shared experience. We can talk about it with complete strangers. We check it all the time. It shapes each of our days. But weather is also how we are connected to the climate. It is how the greater forces of the atmosphere come home to roost in our daily lives. UnderstMore
With our launch of WXshift, it’s been an exciting time for those of us working behind the scenes. Developing the site has been a labor of love and it’s been many months (cough, more than a year) in the making.
Whether this is your first time to our site, or you’re a regular visitor already, what’s probably readily apparent is that data is at the core of it all. We want to make that data easy to understand and easy to use. To help, every few weeks we’re going to take you behind the scenes with some of this data, explaining where it’s from and how we’re including it on WXshift.
As our tagline says, the hope is that folks will “come for the weather, stay for the climate.” To keep you with us, though, we know that climate data needs to be localized so it can resonate with your current weather conditions. But the U.S. is a vast country, so what is local to me here in suburban Boston may not be local to you.
Therein lay our first major challenge: figuring out which climate stations we would use to show relevant and reliable data about where you are.
NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) has historical climate data from tens of thousands of stations across the U.S. But not all of them were right for WXshift. We want to show you historical trends, which means we need many decades of data, and complete records. When we filtered out the stations that haven’t been around for at least 30 years or didn’t have enough data, that left us with about 2,000 temperature stations and 3,000 precipitation stations to draw from.
Our next task was figuring out exactly what to show you and when. To us, the magic is in giving you climate trends that relate to your current weather. When it’s hot, you can see how extreme heat has been changing. When it’s raining, you’ll learn whether rainfall has been increasing or decreasing where you live. And it won’t be long before some people will start seeing snow trends show up when they come to WXshift . . . all it takes is a forecast for snow.
To make it all come together on our homepage, we’re reading in your current weather forecast (brought to you by Aeris Weather) and figuring out on the fly what is the most relevant climate info. And if you come back again later the same day, we’ll show you something a little different, just to keep it interesting.
We’ve also gone beyond local stations to make sure you can get the bigger picture of climate trends in the U.S. We’ve pulled in data for climate divisions, states, and regions, like the Midwest or Southeast. A climate division is an area within a state that generally has similar climate traits (for example, a state may have one climate division along a coastline, and a different climate division up in the mountains, where it might be cooler and rain less often). The division, state, and regional data also come directly from NCEI.
Put it all together and you see weather like you’ve never seen it before. Today in Austin, Texas, where the forecast is for 95°, you’ll see data showing that the number of 100° days each year has been rising since the 1970s. It’s a pretty typical fall day in New York City, but from a climate standpoint, we’ll show you that fall temperatures are getting hotter. If you check the weather in Oakland, Calif., you’ll be reminded that over 70 percent of California is in extreme drought.
In the coming months, we’ll be adding even more data to WXshift. For example, we’ll be bringing you detailed information on hot and cold temperature records (spoiler alert: nationwide, the number of record hot temperatures is far outpacing the number of record colds). We’re mining climate resources for localized info on hurricanes and tornadoes. And during coastal storms, we want to show you all the amazing data Climate Central has on sea level rise.
So if you think WXshift is good now (and we sure do) just wait – it’s only going to get better.