Some of my local readers may be familiar with WeatherBug from seeing the company logo on the WAND weather channel. Could you explain what types of services WeatherBug provides to WAND?
WANDtv is a Decatur, IL based NBC affiliate.
WeatherBug actually got its start working with TV stations…and it turns out that WAND was one of our very first TV partners. At the time WeatherBug just got started, we called ourselves “Automated Weather Source or AWS” and the driving idea behind the company was to create a network of weather stations that local TV partners could access and show LIVE data that was NOT (as the joke goes) just the weather at the airport. This was pre-internet when all we had were 2400 baud modems. Remember them? The TV station would sponsor a purchase of a dozen or so weather stations to donate to the schools, and we developed software so that the station could dial in and show the conditions on-air with as little work for the meteorologist as possible. The program was a huge hit and was a big win for everyone. The schools got a great weather station and a curriculum that went along with it. The kids would be totally psyched because the weather they learned about at school was also being used on TV, which was really a big deal at the time. The TV meteorologists got to visit the schools and put the kids on TV with the weather station and talk about the weather. And of course the viewers got the advantage of knowing hyper-local information that no other TV station in the market had access to.
Years later, when the internet came along, things were much easier and cheaper for TV stations to access the data from the schools over the internet. At first the TV stations would connect to each school via TCP connection, but as firewalls became more prevalent, we changed it so that all the data would be streamed back to our data centers and the broadcasters would access the data from there. Our first version of software for TV ran on top of 16 bit DOS and could use 2 modems simultaneously to connect to sites. Now, our TV stations are running on top of Windows XP with a 32 bit application that we call WeatherBug Zoom. In this app, we actually stream all our live weather data over to the TV station and they can instantly pull up live data from any station all over the US.
Our broadcast TV tie is where the WeatherBug name actually came about. I still remember sitting in a conference room that day trying to figure out what we were going to call our desktop application that we had just built. The nerdy engineering guys came up with the name “Desktop Weather”. As we talked about how the little temperature was going to be down in the bottom left part of your computer screen, one of our TV sales people said that it reminds them of the “bug” that the TV stations put on their screen to show their call letters along with the time and temperature. And so, the name WeatherBug was born!
Does WeatherBug use trained weather spotters in conjunction with it’s tracking stations network?
In 2003 or 2004 time frame, at the suggestion of Steve Rubel, we started a blog that we call the WeatherBug Backyard reporters. Some of the reporters are trained weather spotters, but a majority of them are amateur. They are an incredibly dedicated bunch of individuals that are not only reporting for WeatherBug but for other web sites as well. You can check out the backyard blog at WeatherBug Backyard Club Blog
It is a great idea to have weather spotters though. Something we will keep in mind as a way to keep the whole WeatherBug community informed.
Has WeatherBug ever supported a storm chasing team?
WeatherBug has been storm chasing in the Plains two times. Twice WeatherBug took a small group of meteorologists, and educators to Tornado Alley in the heart of tornado season. The goals for the chases were to provide WeatherBug users with a personal experience of what goes into tornado chasing and also provide and educational experience to students to learn about severe weather. Although we saw some interesting weather, including some severe storms, neither year did we spot a tornado. That said the goals of the trip were a success. Lately, we have been supporting a storm chaser named J.R. Hehnly. You can take a look at J.R’s last year’s trip on or backyard blog here: