Friday, October 12, 2012

More Plots, Bigger Areas & Lower Prices

Another update has hit the SARWeather servers. It has only been 11 days since the last update, but we have a lot of user-visible changes this time around. We have more types of weather plots, improvements to the previous forecasts, lower prices, and forecasts covering larger areas.

New Weather Plots

We have added 3 new weather plots, bringing the total to 9.

Combined weather plot showing rain at the base of Mt. Fuji

The first is a combined plot showing precipitation, wind, and temperature simultaneously. We kept the precipitation unchanged from the dedicated precipitation plot, and added labeled temperature contours at 2.5°C intervals.

Wind is indicated by the little headless arrows which point their barbs back from the wind, or a little circle where there is calm. Each arrow has one or more barbs indicating the strength of the wind. Each full barb indicates 5 m/s, a half barb indicates 2.5 m/s and a red flag indicates 20 m/s. No red flags are shown here, but you'll know them when you see them.

Accumulated rain over 18 hours, leading up to flooding in Spain.

The other new plot shows accumulated precipitation over the forecast period. The scale is chosen so that after 24 hours, a particular colour on the accumulated plot indicates a corresponding average precipitation on the precipitation rate plot.

Wind-chill on Mt. Everest

The final plot shows wind chill. It gives the apparent temperature due to wind on exposed human skin. We use the North American Wind-Chill Index and the scale is the same as for the temperature plot. [TODO: link] Wind-chill is not defined for temperatures above 10°C and wind-speeds under 3mph, so these plots will often have gaps where wind-chill does not apply.

Improved Previous Forecast List

We have again improved the list of previous forecasts.

Previous forecasts
First of all, we have added a darkened progress bar in the header of each card. In the picture above, the first forecast is about 20% done and the others are complete.

Also in the header area, if the forecast shows the current time, then a small orange line shows how much of the forecast period has passed. If the forecast period hasn't started, there is an orange triangle pointing to the left of the header, indicating that the orange line is approaching from the left. Similarly, if the forecast period is over, there is an orange triangle pointing to the right where the orange line has disappeared.

In the picture above, the first forecast hasn't started and the other three all show the current time. There is no forecast shown whose period has passed.

Finally, since we now show all this progress information in the header, we no longer need the confusion of colours which used to light up the previous forecasts. Instead, there are now exactly 4 colours:
  • Green cards show forecasts based on the best available weather data.
  • Yellow cards show forecasts based on older weather data, but still relatively recent
  • Grey cards show forecasts based on older weather data and which should probably be regenerated.
  • Red cards show forecasts which either failed to run, or which were put on hold because of insufficient credit. In either case, selecting such a forecast will allow you to re-try.
In addition, any green or yellow cards will have a little recycle icon on them to indicate that they can be regenerated and the red cards will have a larger error icon. This should make the cards decipherable by colour-blind users.

If you keep the list of previous forecasts open for a while, you will notice that the progress bar, time indicators and card colours are updated dynamically. This allows you to keep track of the progress of several simultaneous forecasts. The page must still be re-loaded for new forecasts to appear.

Lower Prices

We have lowered our prices again for what we now consider basic service, and also simplified the price structure. The starting price for any forecast is now 5 credits, which generally corresponds to €5, and the hourly rate depends on the forecast resolution and size.

Examples of price changes for some standard forecasts:

Area Size Resolution Duration Old Price New Price
30 km 1 km 24 hours €34 €17
130 km 3 km 3 days €44 €19
547 km 9 km 5 days €54 €29

Larger Forecasts

We have added 3 new forecast types, which are all larger versions of the existing ones:
Resolution Old Max Size New Max Size Price
1 km 84 km 138 km €65 for 24h
3 km 256 km 544 km €149 for 3d
9 km 1015 km 2005 km €125 for 5d

Each of these new forecasts is priced higher than the previously available forecasts of the same resolution and will take significantly longer to run.

Finally, we shrank what is now the medium-sized forecast at 1km resolution from 84km to 66km, for a smoother progression through the sizes of 30 km, 66 km, 130 km.

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