Wisconsin Weather

WIWX 9.3 - Weekly Forecasts and Realignment

Hey everyone!

New stuff time! Gosh it's been SUPER quiet lately. I went a whole week without posting on Facebook. I've been so focused on finishing these last couple projects on time. The future vision is more important than current events. I continue to make great progress this winter in what's suppose to be the busy time.

This update was about getting all forecasting pieces built and working together. I believe it was successful but I'm at the point of critical mass. I don't wish to go much further beyond what now exists forecasting wise. Things are getting very complex. Going to be thinking about how to dial these systems in. I would like to allocate my time differently in the months to come but as long as weather is slow...let's keep building, right?! I did tweak some of the page styling so If you're noticing anything that looks wonky or weird on the website...try refreshing your cache. On desktop hitting CTRL-F5 should work. One more thing: I've built and tested this exclusively for Google Chrome so I strongly recommended using that browser.

desktop navigation forecast realignment. On each page exists a horizontal nav layout
desktop navigation forecast realignment. On each page exists a horizontal nav layout

Weekly Forecasts - Member Only

weekly forecast page
weekly forecast page

The weekly forecast is limited to the next three weeks. I've created 50 years worth of weeks on the database. Every week starts on Monday. The month of that week belongs to the month in which that Monday is. Forecast text and additional info can be found by click on the images or using the navigation at the top. I wanted to avoid doing a 5-10 or 7-14 day fixed time-frame like the CPC because that would require constant tweaking. I think it's prone to knee jerking. If I'm good enough I should be able to nail these trends down by week and not have to change anything (get's harder in summer). I plan to update these regularly so there isn't a notification system. You will have to check back manually for updates. All of this is member only.

Monthly Forecasts - Member Only

I literally copy and pasted the code from weekly forecasts with a few small modifications. I wondered what the purpose was of a monthly if we're already doing weekly? But the context of the forecast is different and it was super easy to implement. This will eventually be paired with seasonal forecasting techniques to try to break an entire season into pieces. Because it's clear that - for example - entire winter season forecasts are practically useless and often wrong. Basically the challenge and goal is to nail down some specifics so you can better allocate your resources. This is member only.

monthly forecast page
monthly forecast page

Wisconsin 7-day Outlook aka Member Forecast

So this is an interesting story. Throughout the transition into paid memberships - I had an idea planted in my head by one of the biggest alternative weather services that I should be doing a detailed daily forecast with maps. This was to be the member forecast. After a year of frustration trying to get it working right, look right, function right..I've come to the conclusion that this shouldn't be the focal point of wisconsinwx.com.

7-Day outlook aka Members Forecast as it appears on mobile.
7-Day outlook aka Members Forecast as it appears on mobile.

In addition to some redesigning the whole layout to include so nice features...I changed the page name to 7-Day outlook aka Member Forecast. We are a "Storm Chasing Community". Storms should be the focus. When things are really active this page will act like a supercharged 7-day.

Wisconsin 7-day outlook storm event example with link to storm page.
Wisconsin 7-day outlook storm event example with link to storm page.

I limited the storm info here to the feature image and the summary. You will have to click through to the storm page.

Storms & Storm Events Redesigned

I've known for awhile that the storm events page has been a common entry point for new users. This wasn't the best experience so I set out to fix it on this update. The outlook page that contained all storm forecast information no longer exists and has been integrated with the storm page. Below is the storms page ("Wisconsin Storms") list.

Storm events list page which is a commonly entry point to our website.
Storm events list page which is a commonly entry point to our website.
When you click through you end up at a page like the following:

storm page with forecast info and maps for members. Several changes made here.
storm page with forecast info and maps for members. Several changes made here.

I like this new page because it has everything in one spot with pieces such as the detailed discussion and forecast maps member only. The whole forecast becomes free/public by the time the storm begins. The benefit to members is that ideally members will already know whats up for five+ days whereas a free user will only get it last minute. The overall overarching philosophy is that the content you can find somewhere else is free. But the stuff that sets us apart is member-only.

Daily Forecasts

This system is ready to rock now on it's second iteration. I will use it only occasionally and would rather not draw attention to it. It's pretty spiffy. It is fully automated but I can manually tweak every piece if I choose. The results can yield a true WISCONSIN 7-day Forecast instead of a random spot somewhere in the state. I could sink most of my time trying to get the 7-day perfect and I just don't see the purpose. Honestly I'd rather do something else. Ultimately I think it's very nice just to have a system and maybe I'll use it more than I anticipate. Below is the admin tool...

Daily forecast creator on the admin side
Daily forecast creator on the admin side

Additional Changes

  • Discovered and fixed several memory leaks in map creation code. Should lead to fewer service interruptions. Overall the site continues to be very stable as I add new services which is good!

  • Storm and storm event page loading times were very slow having to do with loading hundreds of images or memory intensive GIF images. Fixed by vastly reducing the number of storms displayed on the storm events page. Will re-add a new storm archive and search tool at a future time. GIF's now must be loaded separately under the archives section on the storm page.

  • small improvements to maps, specifically forecast maps. I reverted back to a simply tan/brown background for all maps. Made the timestamp and legend easier to read. Added a shadow to map layers. On some forecast maps a confidence meter will automatically appear.

  • new classification and confidence scale graphics for maps, storms, weekly, and monthly forecasts.

  • storm report dots on the live map now show immediately after you submit a new report.

  • several new icons/symbols around the site. Helps to be more visual than have to read text all the time.

  • updated terms to include something about cookies. I use cookies in a non-personally-identifiable manner to simply track membership status and tick hit counters on pages around the site. All cookies except the user (and maybe the post) cookie drop off after 30 minutes.

  • added view counters to storms, weekly, and monthly forecasts so I can see what's being used.

  • a bunch small tweaks here and there. Lot of innovation on the admin back end that is starting to surface on the user side of things.

  • NOTE - I know you guys view content through many platforms and services. For example, Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, Text messages. Each time you view on a new platform you will need to login in once. You should not have to log in again unless you don't check back for 20 days.

All of Sudden things Will Change

I'm sorry for going through this so fast. I'm very motivated to get this work done..we can have fun in a few weeks. There is plenty more work to do in the next week and we're heading into what's typically an active time of year-on borrowed time. Happy to announce that I'm beginning work on the final major project of the winter development season: ACHIEVEMENTS! I have a really good vision for this now. Things around here and on facebook will be much different after all this work is done as my focus will turn towards making content. Smaller experimental/innovative projects on deck for spring but in no real hurry. Thinking about a message queue system so that no message goes undelivered and gradually improving admin forecasting tools.

That's all I got today. Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon!

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