How your smartphone can help us better predict the weather

This computer-generated image released by Samsung Electronics Co. on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 in Seoul shows the company's Galaxy S III mini.

A Canadian software company is teaming up with the University of Washington to help turn your smart phone into a valuable tool for helping meteorologists predict the weather.

The company, Cumulonimbus, is utilizing the atmospheric pressure sensor found in some Android phones and tablets and collecting that data to get an incredibly detailed plot of current barometric pressure across the planet.

Right now, meteorologists rely on a handful of sporadic weather stations -- mainly government run -- across the nation to create surface plots of current weather and to input into computer models. It works well, but there are large geographic gaps in the data.

But UW Atmospheric Sciences professor Cliff Mass and a team of UW Atmospheric Sciences professors and graduate students are now working with the company to get current pressure readings from the thousands -- and hopefully someday hundreds of thousands -- of readings from cell phone users -- like walking weather stations! The data would then go into computer models that will, in turn, have a much better picture of the atmosphere to base its forecasts.

In addition, Cumulonimbus just released a new version of their pressureNET software that makes it easier for users to submit their current data. They stress personal information is not used in the database.

Right now, it is only available for some Android devices that include the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Samsung Nexus tablet and the Motorrola Xoom tablet. Other Android devices that have the pressure sensor would also likely work.

Cliff Mass' blog on his work with pressureNET has more information on how his team is using the data and how it can revolutionize weather prediction.