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.

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Stormpulse Advanced: the better way to track tropical weather

After many, many hours of conversation (with you) and coding (in relative isolation), we’re excited to release our new friend, Stormpulse Advanced, into the wild.

The initial feature set (shown in the screencast above):

Satellite Loops. 12-hour loops using three different kinds of imagery: rainbow, water vapor, and true color.  I’m particularly fond of the true color, as we attempted to blend it as seamlessly with the Stormpulse map as possible.  These loops not only animate, but can be told to auto-repeat in sync.  If you love the way our big blue marble looks from space, I think you’ll love this too.

Auto-refresh. Just click this option On in the layers menu and the Stormpulse page will refresh automatically every 5 minutes.  Especially handy when using Stormpulse as an continuous information display during active times of the season.  This works in full-screen mode as well (counter placed in the page title bar).

Save-my-preferences. No longer do you have to turn this layer on and turn that one off each and every time you load the map.  Turn a layer off and it stays off.  Turn it on, and it stays on.  No need to set up anything in an admin interface–our site learns your preferences as you use the map, no configuration required.

Ad-free experience. The free verion of Stormpulse is supported by advertisements, but advertisements are neither displayed nor loaded in Stormpulse Advanced.

Want to see more? Here’s another screencast I recorded this morning, showing Stormpulse Advanced’s satellite loops in action.

We hope you’re as interested in signing up as we are exhausted.  In any event, we’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to let us know what you think!

You should follow us on twitter here.

3 hour site outage on July 6th at 7:00AM EDT

"Power Outage 11" by nateOne (flickr)

Last night we upgraded the site on into the early hours of the morning, and during this time experience some difficulties keeping the map on Stormpulse.com stable. Maps accessed through the API also went black during this time. Meanwhile, network errors outside of our control began to make the site unusable. Things were monitored until they returned to normal at approximately 10:00AM EDT.

As always, thanks for visiting Stormpulse, and bearing with us as we continue to improve the service (and experience growing pains along the way).

Hola, aloha: Stormpulse expands to the Pacific basin

Please note: the full-screen view and the Stormpulse API do not yet work for the Pacific basin.  We are working to resolve this in the near future.  Update: Our embeddable maps now work for the Pacific basin.  Our API instructions have been updated to show you how.

One of the most popular requests we received last year was for us to broaden our coverage from the Atlantic to the Pacific basin.

So, after rolling up our sleeves in the off-season, we quietly launched our coverage of the Eastern Pacific basin on May 15th (coinciding with the 1st day of the Eastern Pacific season).

Stormpulse Eastern Pacific basin coverage

We’ve added storm information back to 1949, buoy reports, wind probabilities, and satellite imagery.  Something we don’t have yet: forecast/spaghetti models.  Our source for the Atlantic spaghetti models (the South Florida Water Management District) does not provide this data, so we’re looking for a source.  If you know where we can get fairly clean text data for model tracks in the Eastern Pacific, let us know!

Additionally, you can get automatic updates on changes in Eastern Pacific Basin storms via our Stormpulse Pacific twitter account: @stormpulsepac.

Stormpulse Pacific on twitter

Hope all of your out west and out in the big blue sea find this helpful.  Send us your feedback when you get a chance (and let us know where can find spaghetti model info if you happen to know!).

New Stormpulse customer survey

(Not to be confused with the survey we were doing for Stormpulse Advanced, which is now closed).

Take it here.  Just 7 questions and very quick, depending on how much you want to write.  Please?

Survey Marker by blmurch (flickr)

Survey Marker by blmurch (flickr)

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.

Follow @stormpulse on twitter

Stormpulse is on twitter. We’ll be broadcasting brief updates on new company developments and storm activity. If you take a look at the right-hand column of this blog, you’ll see our last 5 tweets.

twitter-16

Stormpulse Advanced survey

Want to help shape our future? Then head over to our site and click the ‘Help Stormpulse, take our survey!‘ link in the top-right-hand corner.

We’re looking to add advanced accounts with premium features to our site, and we’d appreciate your frank input.

We’re building our own ad network

If you just want to know how to advertise with us, you can head to the Advertise page on our site. If, however, you’d first (or only) like to know more about this decision of ours, read on …

As I began this post, I wrestled with a title. Something about “accepting advertising” came to mind, but falls so short of what we’re really doing. What are we doing? First, a bit of context:

By our latest estimate, building Stormpulse.com has taken over 10,000 hours stretched over 4 years time. In that time, we’ve done nothing to monetize the site except adding a Tipjoy button and later a PayPal Donate button. Those steps were a response to user demands that we have some way of making money off the site. (We felt appreciated to say the least.)

Some of you (a very, very small number) may have noticed that we took down the Donate button last Friday. This reflects a decision we’ve made: we’re going to build a network of severe weather-related advertisers from the ground up.

In keeping with the same do-it-yourself spirit that caused us to write our own Flash application code instead of co-opting Google Maps, we’re going to flip open our phones and make the calls and make the advertising connections it takes to ensure that our site never has an irrelevant ad on its pages. We can’t leave that up to a contextual algorithm.

As consumers of our own site, we really love the ad-free experience, so we’re determined to make our advertisements as content-like as possible. No fat bellies, no dancing bears, no blinking text. Many of those 10,000 hours invested in the site have been about high-quality display. We’re not going to muck it up now.

In fact, we’re building our own network so that we have a total control that will allow us to ultimately remove the line between advertising and content. What do I mean by that? Another day, another post (but yes, we have something coming). For now, know that we are looking forward to speaking with anyone that would like to advertise their product or service on our site. We have several options available, including geo-targeting.

Those of you that remain concerned should know that we’re also planning to offer an ad-free option. If that’s something you’d be interested in, please let us know.

Concerns, questions, and comments anyone? Fire away.

The 2008 hurricane season comes to a close

This past Monday marked the end of the 2008 hurricane season, and with it, the end of our first big year at Stormpulse.com.

The season ended with a total of 17 tropical depressions, 16 of which became named tropical storms, 8 of which became hurricanes, 5 of which became major (category 3 or higher) hurricanes. This made 2008 the third costliest season on record (behind 2005 and 2004), and the fourth busiest since 1944.

Hurricane Ike, Galveston (Coast Guard Photo)

Hurricane Ike was the most eventful by far, landing on Galveston as ‘only’ a category 2 but nevertheless leaving a wake of destruction in its path. Gustav threatened to be worse than Katrina, but fortunately New Orleans was spared the worst and the levees held. At one point, four active storms dotted the Atlantic: Gustav, Hanna, Ike, and Josephine. And in a late-season emergence, Hurricane Paloma strengthened to a category 4 before making landfall in Cuba as a category 3 (amazingly, only 1 person lost their life as a result).

All of that activity added up to a season to remember, and a lot of visits to our site, with a lot of wonderful support, both financially (through our tip jar and Donate Now button) and verbally, as word of the site spread faster and faster. How fast was it? Well, take this example, sent to us on September 8th:

We were docked in Andros, Bahamas, waiting for Hanna to pass. The local weather, via satellite and Internet was so into Gustav that Ike was just another storm to be recconed with later. Everyone on the dock was very concerned about Ike. One of the boaters suggested we look at your site. We were able to make a decision from looking at all of the information, that was to “get outta town!”.And we did. Arrived in South Florida yesterday, feeling much safer. Thanks so much.

While this report came to us a full seven weeks after beginning our API program, we were still stunned to hear proof of the word of mouth that was transpiring. How that boater in Andros knew about our site, I have no idea. There was a time when I used to feel like I knew the core group that used Stormpulse; while that core group still does, that time is over. That core group has exploded, and the site has taken on a life of its own: it’s now owned just as much by its users as by yours truly.

Where will it go from here? Brad is in town as I write this, and for the next couple of weeks we are going to put our thoughts together and attempt to organize, filter, and boil down all of the great feedback we received this year, as well as new opportunities that have presented themselves that we’d like to attack before the 2009 season rolls around. It’s still a bit fuzzy, but it’s quickly taking shape; as soon as we have something concrete, I’ll post it here.

I’d like to also thank all of you for your wonderful support; whether you donated your visits, your time, your pennies, or your dollars, we thank you.

A few more highlights:

  • Stormpulse was blogged about on Yahoo! Tech, TechCrunch, and mentioned by Tim O’Reilly during his Web2.0 Expo speech in NY on September 18th.
  • Visitors came from 214 countries during the 2008 hurricane season. The United States, Canada, and the Dominican Republic were the top three.
  • Direct visits accounted for approximately 70% of all web traffic to Stormpulse.com this season.
  • Stormpulse.com is the #2 result on Google for ‘hurricane tracking‘, just behind the National Hurricane Center, and is the #1 result for ‘storm tracker‘ or ‘storm tracking‘.