Turning inner space into outer space

February 20, 2019

You, too, can learn to love WeatherCAN

Your first impression of WeatherCAN, the free new weather app from Environment Canada, is inevitably made by its icon.

I want to say it’s fine example of brutalist design, but that would imply that someone who knows something about design made the conscious decision to do it that way. But I’m pretty sure it was actually done by some well meaning federal government employees.

Four types of weather are squeezed into that tiny space, and the government of Canada logo is jammed in for good measure. And when you fire up the app, things don’t get any better.

But how about we accept the design as charmingly naive, and leave it at that. Because the actual weather information is really quite good — better in some ways than the stock Apple app.

There are five sections to explore: the current weather, the hour-by-hour forecast, the seven-day forecast, the satellite image, and fun weather facts that show up every couple of days.

There is no skimping on detail for these forecasts. When I say hour-by-hour, for example, I really do mean one forecast for each hour of the day.

You play a short looping video of the satellite image to get an idea of where the clouds are headed. On the downside the map is kind of minuscule on my iPhone SE. It might look better if you have one of the monster phones that are the new normal.

I find the fun facts more interesting than I thought I would. I’ve learned about ice pillars, sun dogs, and the lack of wind on the day Canada’s flag first went up a pole in front of parliament in 1965.

One strange thing I’ve noticed is that the forecasts are consistently more pleasing in the WeatherCAN app than they are with the Apple Weather. In the midst of a cold spell, it’s heartening to see the warmer days ahead predicted by WeatherCAN.

Kidding aside, this difference is puzzling.

The Apple app gets its data from The Weather Channel. But where does The Weather Channel get its data from? Do they have an army of meteorologists that rivals the resources of Environment Canada? Seems hard to believe, and I couldn’t find anything on their website to answer this question.

In any case, WeatherCAN makes me happier so I’m sticking with it.