New way of displaying weather forecasts

The next generation of weather services are taking shape online. Thanks to new technology forecasts can be displayed in a completely different way to before, giving visitors more active images of weather developments. Also, the quality of the forecasts has improved.

Most of us have probably already realised that weather information has a short shelf-life. In fact this may be the very reason that interest in online forecasts has increased substantially. Continuously updated forecasts are available at any time of day or night, at the user´s convenience.

Now there is a brand new generation of weather presentations for the Internet. Moving images which the visitor can click and zoom aim to provide a better overview of the geographical areas. The maps are interactive, which makes it possible to move around the image.

"Everyone knows that the weather changes all the time, and Flash technology and more vibrant graphics enable us to reflect this better. It gives the visitor better and more comprehensible forecasts. The service should also be easy and intuitive to use," says Kjell Lund, product manager at SMHI.

SMHI´s new online weather service, Flash Weather, includes five-day forecasts for locations in Europe and the rest of the world. The forecasts provide information about expected temperatures, cloud, precipitation and wind. There are moving images of future cloud cover and precipitation, as well as temperature development for Europe.

Flash Weather is already available on various newspaper sites and other websites. Many of the improvements are now being launched in a new version accessible on the SMHI website. The five-day forecasts present all weather information in a single view.

"The new version has better graphics, is more user-friendly and contains more details than before," says SMHI project manager Erik Ernerudh.

"We can offer an exciting, easy-to-use weather service for most websites. Weather forecasts increase the reading value of the whole site and visitors also stay longer. The pricing for the service is based on the number of visitors," says Kjell Lund.

The forecasts in Flash Weather are now provided for specific locations - rather than for a whole municipality, which can be a large area - thus increasing the accuracy. The weather service has also been improved by adapting to prevailing guidelines for people with disabilities.

"By creating websites that can be used by people with various kinds of physical disability, the pages automatically become easier for all visitors to use," says Stefan Johansson at Funka Nu, the Internet accessibility company that reviewed the site.

"For example, there are times when it is better to use the keyboard rather than the mouse, or people may simply want to be able to increase the size of the text on screen."

"SMHI is very early in adapting this kind of web application to increase accessibility. There are very few other examples of this," Stefan Johansson concludes."