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Not Your Parent’s Weather Underground

Posted by Sheila Shayon on February 10, 2011 11:00 AM

This map of 50 webcams is part of the relaunch of Weather Underground, now refreshed with sophisticated weather-forecasting technology that relies on a global network of 19,000 amateur, private weather stations equipped with the company’s software. 

“This was crowdsourcing before crowdsourcing was even known as a term,” comments Richard Lowden, VP sales at Weather Underground. “We’re giving people the opportunity to share the information with their neighbors. We’ve built up a robust community.” 

Lowden and colleague Chuck Prewitt, VP biz dev, believe that neighborhood-by-neighborhood weather forecasting has unique value — and they're not afraid to take on the giant that is Weather.com and the Weather Channel, which has also been making a move into local forecasts.

Referencing sports, Prewitt suggests, “If you’re looking at wind data, you can’t look at O’Hare (Airport) versus Wrigley. One’s on Lake Michigan and the other isn’t, and you’re going to see a vast difference in weather. We’ve taken this time to bring new innovations to weather, and we’re happy to be launching our personal weather-station network with forecasts.” 

Weather.com uses TruPoint, a software that analyzes data from multiple sources as well as data from the National Weather Service and other sources like airports.

Weather Underground is a privately held San Francisco employee-owned company with no debt, no VC financing, and a name borrowed from the radical 60's leftist group.

They claim to be the first weather site on the Internet, launching in the early 1990’s. Today, the site’s embrace of social media includes WunderPhotos, a section for members to share photographs of weather related content; WunderMap, “the web's most interactive weather map”; a robust blog section led by Jeff Masters’ popular WunderBlog; a tornado-tracker, sports and ski weather and a Trip Planner app.

“Our company was founded by meteorologists and computer engineers. At our core we are a weather company based in the digital distribution of weather information. Other companies can’t really say the same thing,” says Lowden.

The 34-person company is one-third meteorologists, one-third developers, and one-third sales personnel, with Google, the Associated Press, American Express Travel, and the SABRE airline-reservation system as customers.

Weather.com claims 42 million unique users and is clearly the industry leader with advantages that include: “it's the preloaded weather app on iPhones, it's connected to a big media company with significant resources, and it has the easiest online name to remember.”

According to Quantcast, Weather.com is the top weather-related service online and the 22nd most trafficked site overall, followed by Wunderground.com (58th), WeatherBug.com (75th), and AccuWeather.com (91st).

It’s hard to imagine that Mother Nature’s every move would make such valuable online content — surely she’s smiling 24/7.

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