To the Ghost of Weather Past

May 9, 2014

Dear Weather Channel App on My Smartphone:

There’s something that you need to hear. We’ve all been thinking it for a while, so here goes: No one cares about Past Radar.

Okay, well, perhaps some people, like my sister and brother-in-law, who are Real Life Meteorologists, care about Past Radar for some geeky, science-y, meteorological reason, but most people—especially the people in your Target Audience—don’t give one flying flip about a picture that shows us what the weather was doing just a minute ago. We care about what the weather is going to do. That’s why they call it forecasting.

But perhaps I am being hasty. Perhaps I should step back for a moment and attempt a more generous read on this seemingly-confounding feature of your radar maps. Let’s imagine a scenario in which I might need to know the weather that has just happened. Perhaps it is the dead of night and I am suddenly awakened by a loud booming noise. In my half-asleep stupor, I might need to confirm if the noise that’s just woken me was a clap of thunder or if Godzilla has just thrown a car onto my roof. I might have been leaning toward Godzilla, but one quick look at that Past Radar will set me straight right away! Phew! Thank goodness! That sure did save me from one awkward call to my local authorities!

Or suppose I am trying to reach my mother who lives down along the Gulf Coast and I can’t seem to get through. Suppose I somehow missed the fact that yet again, some pesky hurricane had been sneaking up on her for days even though is it likely the first thing I notice when I scroll past your weather video news stories and even though anyone with half a brain and one working ear would have heard about it in passing (never mind the aforementioned Real Life Meteorologists in the family who would have surely alerted me to this phenomenon). Perhaps if I were unable to contact my mother, then I might scratch my head and wonder what her weather was like. Perhaps then I might find the Past Radar particularly fascinating.

But not really.

Weather Channel App, when I tap on your little icon and scroll down to your radar screen, I’m not hoping for some wistful glimpses from the Ghost of Weather Past. I want to know if I need to sprint out to the parking lot and roll up my car windows. I want to know if I should switch the TV over to my local weather coverage. I want to know if I have to fear the thunder that could potentially wake up my toddler or if it’s passed us by. I want to know if I need to dig up the bike helmets and get the storm shelter ready. I want to know if I will have to get up an extra 45 minutes early to shovel out my car. I want to know if I will need my rain boots all day or if this is just a little cloudburst.

I want to know what is coming next. I do. We all do.

Please, Weather Channel App. We deal with so much—no job security, crappy vision and dental insurance plans, unreliable public transportation, rising gas prices, a lack of the feminist perspective in standardized history curricula—at least give us this. This one Small Thing.

Tell us what is coming next.

Because I don’t need an app to tell me that I just got caught in a sudden downpour without my umbrella.

Soggily, Robin

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