Friday, November 30, 2012

Forecast Ordering, Easy Integration, Better Animation

We have updated SARWeather again. We have a lot of changes this time around, both in the weather plots and the animation and image-loading logic, but also in the list of forecasts.

Also, we have finally removed the "beta" stamp from the SARWeather logo.

List of Forecasts

The List of Forecasts has seen the greatest changes. First of all, we've dropped the "Previous" from the title, since it's also useful for finding current forecasts, possibly by other users.

Most notable, however, is the new "Close To" section in the panel. It allows you to order the available forecasts by distance from a particular place and time. You can either fill these values in manually, or you can click the little cross-hairs icon to use your current location and the little clock icon to use your current time.

Additionally, each forecast now has a little cross-hairs icon. If you click this icon, then the location of that forecast is loaded into the "Close To" section and the list is re-loaded. This will move the selected card towards the top and show other forecasts in the same area.

If, after all this, you still don't find a useful forecast, there is now a new [ Request Forecast Here ] button in the Actions section. If you've somehow populated the "Close To" fields, then this button will start the process of generating a forecast for that location and/or time.

The paging buttons have also disappeared. Instead, if you scroll to the bottom of the forecast list, there is a button offering you to [ Load More Forecasts... ] which will add more forecast cards to the bottom of the current page.

Finally, we've hidden all the icons on the forecast cards until the mouse is moved onto the card. This makes the cards cleaner looking, especially since we've added the cross-hairs icons and we now show a delete icon on all forecasts and not only on failed ones.

Embarassingly Easy Integration

As you manipulate the "Close To" section, you'll see the URL in you browser's location bar change. If you then re-load the page, or pass the URL to someone else, the "Close To" values will be populated and the list affected appropriately.

This means that if you run or develop any kind of geographic web application, you can easily link to SAWReather, instructing it to list forecasts close to whatever location your users is looking at. If the user doesn't find a useful forecast, the "Close To" section has now been populated and they can easily request a forecast by clicking the [ Request Forecast Here ] button.

For completeness sake, the URL scheme is:
  https://www.sarweather.com/forecast/list/?time={time}&loc={loc}

where:
  time is {YYYY}{MM}{DD}T{HH}{mm} or the magic value "now" to use the current time.
  loc is a pair of latitude and longitude co-ordinates as decimal degrees separated by an underscore character, or the magic value "here" to user geo-location to obtain the user's current location.

An example using my current time and location is:
  https://www.sarweather.com/forecast/list/?time=20121130T1600&loc=64.131_-21.894

An example using your current time and location is:
  https://www.sarweather.com/forecast/list/?time=now&loc=here

Forecast Loading and Animation

The way that images are loaded when the time slider is moved has been changed to avoid having backlog of images that we are waiting for. You can now move the slider back and forth and will generally get a forecast image wherever you move it to, without having to wait for 20 other images to load first.

This change also allowed us to increase the frame-rate of forecast animations. The animation speed is fixed at 1 hour of forecast time per second of animation time, which translates to 1, 2 or 4 frames per second for the 9km, 3km and 1km forecasts respectively. You won't get all the frames on the first iteration, but each time around you'll get a few more filled in until it is smooth as silk, at least at the 1km resolution.

Try it here and click the [ Animate ] button.

Improved Combined and Wind Plots

We have made the size and density of wind barbs on the Combined plots and the wind arrows on the Wind plots much more consistent. We've also positioned the plots better on the page, both of which results in more aesthetically pleasing plots.

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