Archive for September, 2008|Monthly archive page
This week, Stormpulse turns four years old. The site began as a just-for-fun project in mid-September of 2004. Back then I was calling it ‘canewatch’–the name of the folder on my laptop that held all of the little PHP scripts that grabbed XML from the National Hurricane Center and parsed the massive HURDAT file containing all of the best track information back to 1851.
An excerpt from my first blog post about it, from September 21st, 2004:
National Hurricane Center / Tropical Prediction Center — my latest web project involves hurricanes. Twelve hundred of them to be exact. Well, including tropical storms. Can’t share much detail but the theme of the story is that I’m tired of the cartoon renderings that currently pass as meteorological forecasts and have embarked on a journey to bring information rich interactive displays using hurricane data to the general public. I’ve also been waking up between 4:00am and 5:30am in the morning to plug away at this, as my life with a now-nine-week old is rather full!
To supplement the quasi-dearth of creative challenge at my workplace, I’m currently coding away for what will be stormpulse.com, a real-time updating hurricane tracking site. Nothing there yet, but my PowerBook is gladly accepting a pummeling of data as I build the MySQL back-end. This is an exciting project in many ways. From a social benefits standpoint, I truly believe people deserve better than the cartoon-like graphics and information they get from their local weather service. Technologically, it’s loaded with challenges of integrating multiple data sources by fetching live feeds and simultaneously calling on the historical data that will be stored as well (all of the tracking information since 1851). For the geeks out there, it looks something like: Original input + fetched data (Cron jobs) –> [MySQL] <– PHP –> [XML] <– XML Connector –> [Flash]. Yesterday I downloaded 32,000 GPS coordinates for the state of Florida. Fun! :-D
That old personal blog also contains a few posts commenting on Hurricane Frances, the storm that most directly inspired me to write the code (my family was and still is in West Palm Beach, near Frances’ ultimate landfall). For those of you interested in startups, you may want to read more about our beginnings here at Stormpulse.com.
What have we accomplished in four years? We’ve launched a site, we’ve heard a lot of great feedback, we’ve assimilated that feedback, and we’ve received more visitors in the last three weeks than we ever thought possible.
At 2:45pm EDT, a Shell International Drilling Platform (also known as NDBC buoy 42361) recorded Hurricane Ike‘s southeastern eyewall at 105 mph at a pressure of 967 mb:
Meanwhile, a buoy stationed off the southeast coast of Galveston, TX is observing 17 ft. waves with winds out of the ENE at 40 mph, gusting to almost 50 mph. Also interesting that these are 17 ft. waves coming in on a 45 ft. water depth. Pressure there is at 995 mb, a 4.6 mb drop since the last observation.
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.
To improve our communication, we now have a Frequently Asked Questions page.
Aren’t you glad you asked? :-)
This morning we released a small update that allows appreciative users to ‘tip’ Stormpulse, Inc. with a small donation. This actually comes at the behest of our audience–that we ought to be making money with the site, or at least covering our expenses. :-) Yes, we really did have a user ask how they could submit a donation. So there you have it.
The default amount is 10 cents. If you would like to give more, you can. When you give any amount, you are asked to fund a tipjoy account with $5, which you can then use to tip any other site in the tipjoy network.
If you change your mind after submitting a tip (i.e. you’re not interested in funding your tipjoy account), you can easily cancel your tip by going to your transaction history page and clicking ‘cancel unpaid items.’ We promise we’ll still let you use the site and treat you kindly.
If you’re not too busy tracking the tropics …
For those of you that use Facebook, you can show your support for our site and join the conversation about storms, new features, and bugs by befriending Stormpulse.com. This is also a great way to subscribe to updates (if you’re not a regular blog reader).
Thanks for all of your continued feedback. We’re putting together a “Testimonials” page to highlight the awesome response we’ve been getting. Later today we’re rolling out a few more bug fixes, and in the days following, U.S. doppler radar.
Thanks for using Stormpulse.com!