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Open Data Made Beautiful: Dark Sky

Today I came across probably the most beautiful use of public data I’ve ever seen:

This came by way of a new app called Dark Sky that purports to predict the weather. Using your precise location, it tells you when it will precipitate and for how long; for instance, you boot it up before you’re going to head out for a walk, and it’ll tell you that it’s probably going to rain in 10 minutes, so you better hurry up. Plus, you can see predicted radar imagery for your location — which you’ll likely want to look at just because it’s so pretty. As the creators, Adam Grossman & Jack Turner describe on their Kickstarter page:

One of our biggest beefs with existing weather radar animations (those found in iOS apps, online, and on the news) is that they’re clunky, jerky and hard to follow. Doppler radar stations only take new images every five to ten minutes, so instead of a smooth animation you’re presented with a slideshow of a handful of still images. This makes it hard to get a sense of where the storms are coming from and where they’re headed.

I was particularly excited about this app, because it puts a new, beautiful spin on an set of open data. As you may know, the National Weather Service operates an array of over 140 doppler radar stations throughout the United States, and provides the data free to the general public. What you might not know is that data has given life to many civic startups, including most notably The Weather Channel, which in 2008 was purchased for $3.5 billion. Dark Sky’s servers pull in this data, then they “process it, clean it, extract velocity data, and convert it to the animations you see…”

You can learn more about the app in their video embedded below or also on their kickstarter page, where you can also help them finish up the app.