Easier decoding of valid times on static weather imagery

You won’t find a more comprehensive set of weather imagery anywhere online than you will find in the WeatherSpork app.  But there is a slight downside to that.   Each flavor of weather guidance in the app comes with a potentially unique date-time stamp shown at a different location on the chart.  Moreover, at times it can ambiguous, cryptic and difficult to decode and is usually presented in UTC which drives most pilots crazy.  In the end, it’s extremely important to always understand when a particular weather report or forecast is valid before using it.  So in this latest release we’ve made that task a bit less cumbersome…we hope.

You will notice with WeatherSpork version 4.4.2 most imagery has a valid date-time now listed at the center of the footer bar. On the Map, Route Profile and Grid view, tapping on this center button will expose the ETD Finder.  For the Imagery view, this isn’t a button at all, but instead a label to depict the valid date and time of the weather guidance shown in the view above it.  Additionally, as you press and hold down the valid time picker, the valid time is also repeated above the respective dot along the time line.  This is loosely modeled to look similar to the ETD Finder that shows the results of the patent pending Wheels Up Departure Advisor.

Keep in mind that some charts are valid over a range of time such as the QPF forecast.  In this case you will see two times listed. In the example above, the QPF chart chosen is valid from 1200Z 19 July to 1800Z 19 July (the year is not shown to conserve space on smaller devices).  Most of the charts throughout the Imagery view are valid at a single time like the Prog chart shown below.  In that case, you will only see a single time listed.  For example, this Prog chart is valid at 1800Z on 19 July.

To add these valid times to the Imagery view, we didn’t implement some fancy OCR technology to scan the image and spit out a date and time.  That may have worked in some of the WeatherSpork imagery, but certainly not in all.  Instead, we “predict” the valid times based on several known aspects of the particular weather product.  When life is good, these valid times should, in fact, match up with the date-time stamp on the chart.  However, there may be limited times where imagery becomes stale and might not always match.  In the future we will be implementing a new feature to warn you when Imagery is known to be stale.

While UTC should be the time we all use, there are still plenty of pilots that dislike doing the conversion from UTC to local.  As a result, the the valid time that we added will use whatever choice for time you have set in the Preferences view.  So if you are using local (device) time, that’s what will be shown.

Scott Dennstaedt
Weather Systems Engineer

Scott Dennstaedt

View posts by Scott Dennstaedt
CFI and former NWS research meteorologist. Co-founder of WeatherSpork
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