Archive for the ‘mapping’ Category

Live weather data & video on Stormpulse during US landfalls in 2011

This is a guest post by Mark Sudduth, owner and operator of HurricaneTrack.com.

I am pleased to announce that HurricaneTrack.com is partnering with Stormpulse beginning today. The partnership will mean an incredible hurricane tracking experience for both of our audiences. I met with Stormpulse co-founder Matt Wensing a couple of weeks ago in Florida. We talked about some ideas that grew in to even bigger ideas and before we knew it, we had hatched a plan that will revolutionize hurricane tracking. Our plan is to combine the ultra-modern look of the Stormpulse brand with the educational, informative and live data aspects of HurricaneTrack.com. It is no secret that our Java maps are showing their age. Five or six years ago, they were cutting edge, now they are dated and were in need of a complete re-design. Instead of doing that, we have decided to add a custom Stormpulse tracking map to our homepage (as seen below). The map’s functionality will evolve over time but it will give our visitors instant access to a live hurricane tracking map from the moment an “invest” is activated by the National Hurricane Center.

Stormpulse and its related tracking maps have quickly become famous the world over. Utilized by millions of people from business, industry, government agencies and of course the avid hurricane tracker, there is no mistaking a Stormpulse tracking map. We are honored to have the privilege of providing the Stormpulse brand to our visitors. In fact, we will develop special features for our version of the tracking map not found anywhere else.

As for our contribution to Stormpulse, we will develop high resolution digital data and live video streams for Stormpulse clients. The data will be plotted on Stormpulse maps generated for specific needs of their clients- ranging from personal use to large corporate and government decision making entities. The long term goal is to blanket a region with dozens of instrumented towers to provide unprecedented live data and video streams on a level never before available. This partnership will help to facilitate that goal.

Matt had this to say regarding the new partnership:

“Mark’s proven delivery of accurate, real-time storm data and video feeds during landfalls makes the HurricaneTrack team an excellent extension to the Stormpulse platform. Working together is an obvious and natural fit which will allow us to demonstrate what can be done when you bring together the right expertise.”

Today’s announcement is only the beginning to what we both see as an enormous opportunity to serve both of our user bases with the best tools available. The entire HurricaneTrack.com team looks forward to pushing the limits of what we can do with the power of Stormpulse on our side.

Monthly traffic limit for free Stormpulse API users

Since introducing the Stormpulse API in July 2008, our tracking map has been embedded in over 1,000 websites and viewed tens of millions of times. We’d like to thank you if you’ve been a part of our free API program, to which we owe much of the credit for getting Stormpulse into the hands of the site’s fans.

Since that time, we’ve added more features and made Stormpulse into a more reliable service for thousands of businesses and emergency operations personnel worldwide. Maintaining the reliability of our website and API service is central to being useful during critical times, as our customers have grown to depend on us for the best visualizations of storm data on the web.

It’s become apparent during the first half of the 2010 hurricane season that we cannot maintain the reliability of our service while continuing to provide a free, unlimited traffic version of our embeddable maps. The immense number of requests to our free maps places a significant strain on the service for everyone.

As such, we are discontinuing the unlimited traffic aspect of the free API. Beginning Monday, September 6th (Labor Day), all sites using the free version of our maps will be limited to 50,000 requests per month. Once this limit is reached, your API key may be deactivated for the rest of the calendar month.

Those that expect higher traffic are encouraged to sign up for Stormpulse Maps Pro, which allows for unlimited traffic on a pay-per-use basis.

Thanks for your feedback as we transition into this new phase of Stormpulse.

Stormpulse Maps Pro: the oil spill & more

Since we launched Stormpulse Pro last November, we’ve received a steady flow of requests for these premium features to become available on our affiliate/Stormpulse API maps.  In response to this demand, we’ve launched Stormpulse Maps Pro. (NOTE: If you’ve already got a Stormpulse account (free or Pro), you’ll need to sign out of that account before you can sign up for Stormpulse Maps).

These premium maps accounts take our free maps to the next level by offering:

  • New! Gulf oil spill. Engage your visitors with the only interactive weather maps on the web with detailed plotting of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill site and 24-hour forecast from the NOAA updated daily.  You can check out this feature on our maps at Stormpulse.com.
Deepwater Horizon site & Gulf oil spill

Deepwater Horizon site & Gulf oil spill

  • No upsells or advertising. To help ensure your audience stays on your site, ads and upgrade links are never displayed on a premium affiliate map.
  • Super-resolution radar loops. Bright colors and fine-grained details draw your visitor’s attention to the most important features of each storm. Powered by “Level 2″ data from the National Weather Service, this is the highest resolution radar available on the web.
  • Tropical watches and warnings. Inform your audience of the threat to coastal areas as the storm approaches land.

As with our free maps, you can also toggle layers and add customer markers using the Stormpulse Maps JavaScript API, which we’ve designed to be familiar to anyone with Google Maps experience.

Keep the requests coming …

Weather maps for emergency operations and planners

“The most detailed, easy to navigate, fully-featured tracking site I have seen.” Evan, Dept. of Homeland Security

During the 2008 and 2009 Atlantic hurricane seasons, thousands of decision-makers from Fortune 500 executives to local marina managers used Stormpulse to visualize the impending dangers and coordinate their efforts.  Since then, we’ve received hundreds of emails from these “power users” asking for more.  To better serve these customers, on June 1, 2010, we launched a new series of plans focused on the needs of emergency operations and disaster response teams.

In addition to all of the features available with our base-level Stormpulse Pro plan, these plans include the ability to add additional users to your Stormpulse Pro account, severe weather alerts for up to an unlimited number of custom locations, coastline highlighting for tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings, and a wind probabilities layer which provides an excellent visual interpretation of the National Hurricane Center’s wind speed forecasts.

What other features can you expect in 2010? How about wind probability alerts, storm surge alerts, and an enhanced version of our popular forecast models layer? With the ocean heat content rising, we’re also considering the addition of a sea-surface temperatures layer. Your feedback is appreciated!

You can read more about these plans and see an overview of key features by going to our Emergency Operations products page. You can also fill out this form if you’d like to schedule a demo for your company or team. We’d be happy to discuss your team’s specific needs.

P.S. Here’s a video on YouTube that shows Stormpulse in action at the Harris County Office of Emergency Management.  This county includes the city of Houston and is responsible for an area larger than Rhode Island.  Look for Stormpulse on the projectors at 0:04 and 0:10 seconds into the clip.

Add markers to weather maps with the Stormpulse API

You can now add your own location data to any Stormpulse map embedded on your site.  To learn how, read our updated API documentation, or watch these video tutorials.

NOTE: This functionality is available to all API users until June 1, 2010.  On June 1, 2010, certain restrictions may apply to API users embedding the map on media (mass audience) sites and API users embedding the map on corporate intranet portals.

Just another small step towards opening up our maps to the rest of the world.  We look forward to adding new functions, objects, and data sets to the library.

If you would like to sign up for an API key (free), you should go to this page on our site.

Locality, beauty, and speed: major updates to Stormpulse

Now with city-level coverage for thousands of U.S. locations and ZIP codes

We’ve spent the last four months working on an update to make Stormpulse.com more local, more beautiful, and faster.  And as of this morning, you can go and see for yourself.

Major highlights:

  • Home page attempts to geo-locate and route you to a local weather page.
  • Current conditions box shows current temperature, conditions, and winds.
  • Forecast box shows high and low temperature and an hour-by-hour summary for the next three days.
  • Map imagery with a resolution of 500 m/pixel–four times greater than our previous maps (so you zoom in four times closer).
  • Speed boost: the map only loads the severe weather information it needs for your current view (no loading or rendering data needlessly).
  • Map enhancements–clearer labeling and more beautiful terrain.

Those are the big items.  Other items we get excited about:

  • When viewed with an iPhone, the weather information is displayed in a friendly, readable fashion (and more mobile support coming soon).
  • The ‘Share Map‘ feature now works for U.S. Severe Weather and allows you to share down to the plotpoint for a storm.  For example, a close-up view of Katrina bearing down on NOLA.  This will work for forecast positions during an active storm as well.
  • Improved color scheme for severe weather alerts.  In our first attempt at severe weather coverage, we adopted the National Weather Service’s colors entirely.  Since then, we’ve seen a few big storms come and go, and a lot of winter storms come and go, and we’ve adjusted our colors to improve visibility on the critical alerts, and quiet down the less important ones.
  • Simplified site navigation bar.  Fewer choices with an expandable button at the end means less confusion, we believe.
  • Intelligent expanding and contracting of weather info boxes in the left column.  We are big believers in only showing what matters and hiding the rest.  We’ve tried to make some smart decisions about what to hide and what to show by default.  Tell us if you disagree!

Since so much of this is visual, I thought I’d include a few more screenshots that do this update justice.

A Winter Storm Watch in Hartford, CT:

Wintry weather in … Texas?!  Yep.

As always, we looking forward to hearing what you think.

The Stormpulse Team

Nationwide severe weather on Stormpulse

This morning we updated the site to include most of the severe weather watches and warnings published by the National Weather Service (weather.gov).

This includes many, many types of hazards such as:

  • Severe Thunderstorms
  • Tornadoes
  • Floods & flash floods
  • Fire watches/warnings
  • Winter storms (snow, sleet)
  • Frosts/freezes
  • Extreme heat

Here’s an example of some frost creeping into Charlotte, NC this morning:

Frost in Charlotte, NC

We’ve adopted the same colors as the official NWS charts (though that may change), and we’ve added value (in our Stormpulse way) by making the areas clickable, by joining together neighborhoring shapes into a single area (less clutter, less confusion) when they share the same advisory/alert, and by giving you access to the complete description right inside the map.

Along with the mapping visuals, you’ll also notice we have a search box that supports searching by state, city, or zip code.

Search

Example searches: “Memphis, TN“, “33411“, “New York, NY“, “Minnesota“, “California“, “FL“.

Play around and have fun with it, and let us know what you think.  We are considering this very much an early version (‘beta’ in developer lingo), so beware of hidden bugs and potential performance issues if you are using a slower computer.

10 minute site outage on June 3rd at 2:45PM EDT

By Neeta Lind (Flickr)

By Neeta Lind (Flickr)

As you may already know, our site was down for 5-10 minutes yesterday afternoon.

We investigated the root cause and traced it back to some database enhancements that we made this winter, after the last hurricane season.  This portion of our database system is responsible for the cities you see on our tracking map, so in addition to the map being unavailable, you may have noticed the cities were missing for a larger stretch.

We’ve taken three specific steps (I’ll spare you the gory details) to prevent this from re-occurring in the future, and we appreciate your patience as we grow.

Watch Ike make landfall with radar (NEXRAD) on the Stormpulse map

We’ve been promising it for a while, and now on the brink of Hurricane Ike‘s landfall into northeastern Texas, we are pleased to announce that we’ve added radar as a layer to the Stormpulse map.

To emphasize the feature during this critical time, we’ve placed it first in the list of layers at the top-right. Just toggle it ‘On’, and a semi-transparent layer of doppler radar observations from across the U.S. will load into view. This data is sourced from NEXRAD–the Doppler Radar National Mosaic published by the National Weather Service.

While this does not appear as high-resolution as other familiar displays of radar (“VIPIR” comes to mind), we hope you’ll agree that this layer adds a critical dimension that was heretofore lacking–namely, watching the rain bands come ashore and eventually being greeted with the eye of the monster. We also hope that, being national in scope, this layer creates interest beyond the context of tropical cyclones. Where will we go from here …

In response to many a good question about “Wind Fields”, we’ve also added labels to the Tropical Storm, Storm, and Hurricane Force wind fields, which shows you their meaning in miles per hour (39-57 mph, 58-73 mph, and 74+ mph, respectively):

To all of the many that asked us about these wind fields and about radar: thank you for helping to drive us in this direction. And to everyone: thoughts and feedback welcome.

Thank you: A summary of Stormpulse feedback in recent days

First of all … with Hurricane Gustav less than 40 hours from landfall, our thoughts are with the people of Louisiana.

I wanted to write a quick post tonight letting all of you know how much we appreciate the flood of feedback and constructive criticism we’ve received, particularly in the last week.  While we read every single character you send our way, we no longer have the ability to respond to every email and continue making progress on the site.  So if we haven’t responded to you personally, we trust you understand …

Since many people claim to be listening to feedback but don’t seem to do much about it, I thought I would prove it by listing the most common (and best) suggestions we’ve heard so far:

  • It’s hard to tell the difference between the various colors in the storm category legend.  Specifically, we need to create a greater distinction between categories 3, 4, and 5.
  • “Please put the category somewhere on the map/info box.”  Done.  We now list “H1″, “H2″, etc. in the information box at the bottom of the map.
  • “Give me some way to make the map bigger“.  Done.  We’ve added a Full-Screen link to the site (look at the top-right), and we’ve made height and width settable parameters in the API.
  • “Let me zoom in farther.”  Coming … we just downloaded imagery from NASA that will allow you to zoom in another one or two steps.
  • Add Little Cayman and Cayman brac to the map!”  Seems reasonable to us.  Haven’t done this yet, though.  Sorry.
  • “Some of the photos for Hurricane Katrina as wrong/false.”  Done.  We’ve gone in and cleared the erroneous ones out, as far as we know.
  • “I can’t see the background tiles/map.”  We’ve narrowed this down, in most cases, to a corporate firewall blocking the traffic or a need to clear your browser cache and try again.
  • Add radar!”  Coming, although it probably won’t animate at first.
  • “Please label latitude and longitude on the grid.”  This is going to be a little tricky, but again, we’ll see what we can do once things calm down a bit.  :-)

All for now.  Thanks again to all of you that have taken the time to write.  And for those that haven’t, thanks for using the site and the API service.  And our fingers are flying fast trying to make it even better.

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