One of the most difficult judgements that is made during an archaeological excavation never has to do with the ground: it always has to do with the sky. Is it going to rain? When is it going to rain? Are those dark clouds headed this way? Do we have 10 minutes until they get there, or another hour of work? Inevitably, someone is hunched over a smartphone, trying to decipher Weather Apps maps, or trying to figure out just what “40% between 3 and 4 pm” actually means. Of course, miscalculating isn’t detrimental, but it can be frustrating. No one likes panicking to cover units in the rain, and the time spent bailing out units caught in the rain or waiting for wet units to dry can slow down projects, not to mention potentially damage cultural resources. Then, of course, there is time lost by being too cautious: we’ve all called a field day only to discover that it never actually rained. More accurate and time sensitive weather data would be very helpful. Well, someone has come to our rescue.
that gives you an incredibly accurate forecast of the next hour. Not the next ten days, but what is going to happen, minute-by-minute, over the course of the next sixty minutes. Since I’m not in the field currently, this has come in very handy when deciding if I’m going to go walk the dog. But if I was in the field, I would be able to make that difficult judgement about whether or not we can keep working, cover up the units and wait it out, or close up the site and head for home.
The app itself is beautiful, and easy to use. There is a yellow graph running along the top that shows the expected level of rainfall through the course of the next hour: Heavy, Medium, or Light. As time moves, so does the graph. It also tells you the current condition, and the expected forecast for the next hour. You can swipe up and get a longer range forecast of the expected temperatures. You can click the “radar” button and see a beautiful radar animation that shows you the movement of the impending storm far better then standard radars (see the website and scroll down for a demo and side-by-side of the animation). You can also set it up to send you notifications, so you in case you haven’t looked at the sky since you’ve been to preoccupied with your unit, you won’t get dumped on unexpectedly.
The same folks also just launched a new weather website, Forecast, which is just as slick and nice looking (and devoid of ads and such). What I also really like about it is that you can check the weather in the past. So, for example, here is the weather in St. Mary’s County the day that John Brome submitted a slave runaway ad to the local paper in 1861.
In all, I think Dark Sky is a no-brainer for humans, let alone archaeologists. For example, Penny the Dog really would like to go on a walk right now, but I know that it’s going to start raining in 3 minutes, so we’re going to wait it out. Perhaps you have a long walk to your car after work, so knowing if you should leave a little early to avoid getting soaked would be helpful. For archaeologists, where the efficient use of time in the field is critical to the success of a project, being able to accurately predict the weather would be a wonderful gift. All in all, it’s an extremely practical and useful app that now has a comfortable space on my home screen, and I’m looking forward to putting it.
What types of mobile apps are you using in the field, to check the weather or otherwise? Leave a comment below!!