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Why Do Different Weather Apps Have Different Forecasts?

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People have been trying to predict the weather for thousands of years. You’d think that by now we’d have it sorted out—yet open three different weather apps on your phone and you’ll probably find three slightly different forecasts. How hard can it be to get the weather right?

Pretty hard. Even weather experts agree that meteorology is “an art as much as a science.” Our instruments have come a very long way since the weather rock, and computer modeling allows us to capture and process huge quantities of data. Ultimately, though, a forecast comes down to one thing: the forecaster’s judgment.

Weather apps are like weather reports on TV, which never seem to match up, either. That’s because each app or station uses its own systems and formulas to predict the meteorological future.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters is the founder of Weather Underground. “You start with the same fundamental mathematical equations that govern the motion of the atmosphere,” he told The Virginian Pilot. “But the coding is different.”

Every forecaster starts with the same raw data, a “firehose” of information pouring in from satellites, radar, and weather stations around the world. From there, they have to decide how to process that data, and which variables will be relevant for any given situation.

No matter what channel you watch, site you visit, or app you download, you’re going to have to make room for a little error. Meteorologists call their forecasts “guidance,” not “the future.”

Some apps’ guidance hits the mark more often than others, but the best weather app for you depends on what you want.

The Weather Underground app (iOS, Android) is free and super-detailed. The Weather Channel (iOS, Android) is also free but focuses more on social media, allowing users to share weather updates with friends. Dark Sky ($3.99, iOS, Android) is hyperlocal and immediate, focused only on the present moment and the next few hours. For true weather nerds, there’s RadarCast Elite ($1.99, iOS), which offers high-definition radar imaging so you can watch that pressure system roll in.

[h/t The Virginian Pilot]

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Weather Watch
It Just Snowed In the Sahara for the Second Time In Less Than a Month
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The town of Aïn Séfra, Algeria might need to find a new nickname. Though it’s often referred to as “The Gateway to the Sahara,” the 137-year-old province in northwest Algeria is currently digging out from a rare—and unexpected—snowstorm that left the desert town covered in several inches of snow and battling sub-zero temperatures.

While the Daily Mail reported that “locals took to the nearby sand dunes to enjoy the unusual weather,” the strangest part of the story is that this is Aïn Séfra’s second snowfall in less than a month. On Sunday, January 7, a freak blizzard left parts of the Sahara blanketed in as much as 16 inches of snow.

This most recent storm marked the region’s fourth snowfall in nearly 40 years; in addition to January's dose of the white stuff, the area has been hit with other surprise wintry events in February 1979 and December 2016.

But North Africa isn’t the only area that’s seeing record-breaking weather events. On Saturday, February 3, 17 inches of snow fell on Moscow within 24 hours in what the country has dubbed “the snowfall of the century.” In mid-January, Oymyakon, Russia—a rural village in the Yakutia region, which is already well known as one of the coldest inhabited areas of the world—saw temperatures drop to -88.6°F, making it chilly enough to both bust thermometers and freeze people’s eyelashes. And you thought dealing with single-digit temperatures was tough!

[h/t: Daily Mail]

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Weather Watch
Record-Breaking 17 Inches of Snow Covers Moscow in 24 Hours
Vasily Maximov, AFP/Getty Images
Vasily Maximov, AFP/Getty Images

Moscow sees some of the most brutal winters of any world capital, but even locals weren't prepared for the most recent winter storm to batter the city. As Newsweek reports, a record-breaking 17 inches of snow buried Moscow within 24 hours.

Roughly 7 inches of snow fell just on Saturday, February 3, and the deluge continued through the following Sunday. The accumulation has already been dubbed the "snowfall of the century," and officials expect up to 3 additional inches to cover the ground over the next three days.

The sudden blizzard has brought life to a stand-still in the metropolis of 12 million. The mayor is warning motorists to stay off the roads as around 15,000 snowplows clear the snow. About 2000 trees have been toppled by the storm, injuring at least five people and killing one.

Even as the worst of the weather winds down, over 40,000 people in Moscow and the surrounding regions are without power. Meanwhile, traveling in and out of the city has become close to impossible: Around 100 flights are grounded at the local airport indefinitely and at least 10 have been canceled all together.

The historic snowfall hasn't stopped many of Moscow's tougher residents from venturing outside. Check out photos from the event below.

Person cross-country skiing over snow in Moscow.
Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images

Walking through a blizzard in Moscow.
Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images

Walking through the snow in Moscow.
Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images

Walking through the snow in Moscow.
Yuri Kadobnov, AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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