10.3 Mobile Phone – a Device for Making the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere Observations

Friday, 20 June 2014: 11:30 AM
Alpine Ballroom (Resort at Squaw Creek)
Lukasz Legutko, Institute of Meteorology and Water Management (IMGW), Warsaw, Poland; and A. Plygawko


The last fifteen years in Poland were a period of intense meteorological and hydrological activity. At that time Poland was hit by flooding three times which affected more than half of the country. The floods resulted in the loss of lives and damage amounted to several billion dollars. At present, Poland is still recovering from flood damage and is in the process of establishing new flood protection systems. However, flood is not the only weather event of concern to the Poles. Therefore, more frequent extreme changes in weather such as: storms, high temperatures, drought and on the other hand blizzards and severe frost require taking appropriate action.

After the Millennium Flood of 1997 the Polish Hydrological and Meteorological Service has established one of the most advanced systems for monitoring and forecasting weather events. However, lessons learnt from the period of 2010-2012 have shown that the measuring equipment and the forecasts alone are not sufficient to effectively warn the society against extreme weather events.

IMGW - PIB is the National Hydrological and Meteorological Service for Poland with an extensive network of telemetry and weather radar networks and developed ICT infrastructure in support of forecasting weather and dangerous phenomena. For about four years IMGW has actively provided next products to the public through available and popular technologies called the New Media. In recent years a weather portal www.Pogodynka.pl was established as well as its mobile version www.m.pogodynka.pl, SMS Alert System, business Meteo B2B portals and weather apps for mobiles. So far, information on meteorological hazards was communicated one-way. A synoptician advised the public about weather situation. Today it is time for a change. We decided to use a feedback and asked our recipients to inform us about the current meteorological situation. Thanks to mobile app created by IMGW-PIB each user twice daily informs us about current weather in his location. Background

The world of meteorology is changing. Previous observations carried out by traditional methods (professional instruments for making meteorological measurements), are beginning to be confronted with the observations made by amateurs using only mobile phones. These small packets of observational data derived from mobiles are often more valuable than observations made traditionally. These data are first of all light (several bytes), and most frequently are transmitted spontaneously. They can provide important information at a time when the real thing occurs in nature and in a place where there are no specialized measuring instruments.

Another advantage in favour of the observation made via mobile phones is that the number of its users is many times greater than full-time observers.

Currently, a major challenge is how to combine professional and amateur (social) observations. Both groups of " observation followers” do not like each other, but connecting both data collection methods can greatly increase the reliability of forecasts, due to real verification of data collected by the community of amateur meteorologists.

Case study

IMGW-PIB decided to create mobile apps as a major product development path as the best tool for reaching the public with its forecasts and warnings. In particular, the emphasis has been placed on new mobile Pogodynka Pro app functionality which provides a weather feedback reported by users. This app is available in the Google Play Store and Apple AppStore. The app is free, but in return, users should report the weather twice a day. New Pogodynka Pro features a simple to use graphical interface for weather reporting via mobile screen. Reporting is made from a dedicated screen with the buttons corresponding to defined dangerous meteorological phenomena, such as:

• heavy rain • strong wind • freezing precipitation • severe storms / severe storms with hail • icing • snowstorms / blizzards • strong frost • thaw • heavy snow • storms / thunderstorms with hail • strong fog • heat • frost • intense fog depositing rime

In addition, the app has a "Map" tab, where the user's location can be seen (determined by geolocation) and the area within a radius of 50km from the designated location. On this map appears an information reported by other users on meteorological phenomena occurrence.

Data derived from such observations are then fed into a central database and made available to other app users. It is planned to make them open to the media in the future.

By the end of the year we intend to acquire 1 million followers / users of new Pogodynka Pro app with the function of reporting the weather, what will no doubt result in a statistically reliable information.


As a part of IMGW-PIB activities an effective warning system against hydro-meteorological events was established which delivers dedicated weather information to specific users, i.e. according to the user's location and needs. IMGW-PIB operates an integrated system platform of text messaging and mobile apps to warn the society. While people are in motion, the mobile apps track their position and store information in the central database. Such data is used to send alerts to users who are located in the affected areas.

Thanks to the feedback used in the app, IMGW-PIB can communicate with a user two-way. It's not just meteorologist who informs the public about the weather, since meteorologist has already been informed by users what happens at a given moment in nature. A value of synopticians' work took on a new dimension. Through continuous and current access to so large information base our forecasts are becoming more accurate and get on time to the recipients.

A large number of amateur observers, as well as the possibility of making observations virtually anywhere convinced meteorologists that these data were important and they are currently used to support the work of the IMGW-PIB. The Institute takes every step to ensure it can mitigate the impacts of hazardous weather events which occurrence is impossible to prevent. At the same time, IMGW-PIB is fully aware of the scale and aftermath of such phenomena. Therefore, its goal is to continually improve its services in terms of quality, technology and availability of the weather products.

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