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Faulty Forecast: Why Your Free Weather App Might Cost You in the Long Run

Weather is one of the most disruptive forces affecting your business. From transportation to supply to vending, companies are at Mother Nature’s mercy — should she feel feisty.

So why would you rely on a free app for all your weather needs? Yes, it’s going to give you a prediction on the coming days’ conditions, but results may be, at best, spotty or leaving you wanting more, especially in the longer range. In fact, any weather prognostication that provides information for more than a week into the future can be, on average, less precise than climatological estimates. Even professional meteorologists will include a statement of confidence in their long-range forecasts — sometimes the level is high, while it’s quite low at other times. You certainly won’t find that with an app.

A “free” weather app is a misnomer. While it won’t cost you upfront money to adopt it, it’ll certainly bleed into your business’s profits, time, and other variables down the line. It won’t give you the help you need or want — or even let you know when it’s heading down the wrong path (as these frequently can).

Where Free Weather Tech Can Cost You

IT without a fee is never a smart solution when it comes to your operation’s core capabilities. You can likely think of other services or apps that are free that you wouldn’t trust your business to, but in the case of weather forecasting — despite the bells and whistles many free apps contain — they leave the market particularly underwhelmed.

Here are just a few of the ways these platforms create more problems than they solve:

1. Extra uncertainty: When the threat of severe weather looms on the horizon, the members of your decision-making team likely rely on apps from big names like AccuWeather or The Weather Channel, online forecasts, and local TV feeds. Unfortunately, each source can predict something different.

Because of this, your company wastes time deciding which forecast to trust when you should be acting definitively. Because none of the free weather apps or resources has authority, there’s murkiness about where to place your trust — or perhaps you’ve just given up trying to second-guess the elements, meaning the app remains unopened most of the time.

2. Extra cost: The reason you’re worried about the weather is that it directly impacts your bottom line. At best, the wrong reaction can subject you to unnecessary costs; at worst, financial disaster.

There are two assumptions that trigger those misplaced responses, both of which need to be cleared up. First, weather apps aren’t monitored by meteorologists; they’re unlicensed and unregulated, and they can come from anywhere. These app forecasts rely solely on computer model output.

And that leads to the second misplaced response: True weather forecasts aren’t simply the output of a computer model. Computer model outputs can sometimes be disastrously wrong, which is why it takes a seasoned meteorologist to filter the good, the bad, and the ugly of computer models to produce an accurate forecast worthy of your business.
Using only a weather app to guide your business almost guarantees decisions will be made with the lowest-quality information. Decisions made without the best information can lead to delays, exorbitant expenses, and even injury or death.

3. Extra risk: The last thing a business wants to do is scale back or shut down operations due to a looming weather threat. Yet model-driven weather apps may completely miss or overstate a threat because of where you’re located within your county or zip code (the basis for app forecasts and alerts). Large counties may have a threat on one side that doesn’t affect the other side, while smaller ones may border a significant threat yet remain in the clear simply because of county lines.

The question of whether to shut down or continue operations can’t be answered by the app. It will fall to a member of your crisis management team, who’s most likely not a meteorologist. The possible consequences of guessing wrong include major setbacks, cost overruns, damage to facilities and assets, lost business, and lacking employee safety.

Better Than Free

Jean-Paul Sarte once said, “If we seek advice from others, we choose our advisor and have some idea of the course he or she will recommend.”

Any business that has a stake in the outcome of a weather forecast needs to consider tools that are superior to free apps. Businesses in the oil, gas, offshore shipping, and aviation industries are just some of the many that know the value professional weather services provide.

When it comes to accurate, up-to-the-second weather information relevant to your exact coordinates and business needs, there’s no substitute for professional meteorologists using up-to-date technology to provide the most accurate forecast.
Yes, there will be a cost to a professional weather service. Unlike the free apps, however, these weather services provide actionable, applicable information that will lead to positive results for your business, not incorrect approximations or wild misses.

Acting with confidence and conviction when the right decision absolutely matters has a value that can’t be found in a free app.

Written By

StormGeo Senior Meteorologist Dave Gorham is a former U.S. Air Force meteorologist with expertise in aviation meteorology and severe weather. Dave is one of the few servicemen to directly support both Air Force One and Marine One, stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and Camp David, respectively. After the Air Force, Dave worked as an on-camera meteorologist for an NBC affiliate in North Texas and as an on-air meteorologist at Houston’s KUHF-FM radio station before returning to his aviation roots with Universal Weather and Aviation. He then took his meteorology and broadcast skills to ImpactWeather and, finally, StormGeo. Now, Dave manages StormGeo’s video production studio, hosts StormGeo’s popular weather webinar series, and presents the Employee Hurricane Preparedness Presentation, among other duties.

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