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Smartphone Barometers Create Weather Station Network

Some Android smartphones and tablets measure atmospheric pressure. More could provide forecasters with important info in areas with few official weather stations. Larry Greenemeier reports

For a few years a handful of Android smartphones and tablets—mostly from Samsung—have come equipped with digital barometers. The idea was to help measure altitude and improve GPS accuracy. Now researchers have found a way to use these barometers for their traditional purpose—weather forecasting.

An app called PressureNet developed by Canadian company Cumulonimbus (with help from University of Washington atmospheric scientists) creates an interface between the device and researchers. Since PressureNet’s most recent release in January, the researchers have been collecting about 4,000 readings per hour from the app’s users. They plan to make this information available to the National Weather Service and other meteorologists worldwide.

An influx of crowd-sourced air pressure data would better pinpoint storms as they form, allowing longer response times—especially important when dealing with relatively small but intense thunderstorms that develop quickly in areas with few official weather stations.

That’s assuming Apple and the rest of the Android community start feeling a different kind of pressure, and install barometers in their devices too.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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