Monday, January 10, 2022

Apple's Bizarre Radar Colors

People have complained about Apple's rather bizarre radar color scheme.
In Ben's tweet, he asks, why Apple didn't use the "traditional red to green" in their weather app.

But, where did the red to green originate?  I invented it in 1976 while a meteorologist at (now) KSNW-TV in Wichita. 

Up till then, the radar was difficult-to-discern black and white (below). 

I worked with Technology Service Corporation out of Los Angeles to take weather radar from black and white to color. But, when they installed the elegantly designed box, they said, "What colors do you want the weather to be?" Foolishly, I hadn't given it any thought. I reasoned it out this way:
  • Pale blue would be snow and very light rain. People associated blue with cold and snow. 
  • Green would be light to moderate rain. Rain of that intensity is a good thing and makes things grow, thus green. 
  • Yellow = caution. Heavy rain rain can cause problems. 
  • Red was danger for hail and torrential (flooding) rains. It would be that color associated with tornadoes and eyewalls of hurricanes. 
It made so much sense that, as radar colorizers were rapidly installed across the nation, it caught on just about everywhere. My guess as to why Apple did this silliness is because they "think different" and Californians are not used to valuing weather radar. 

If you've ever wondered what the 1970's-era equipment that did all this looked like, here it is:
Jon was sitting at the first-ever WSR-74C radar. It had to be used in a darkened room and eyestrain was a real problem. The orange arrow points to the radar colorizer and the red arrow points to the electronics that created the mapping. At the upper left was the time-lapser which showed the storms in motion. 

It was an exciting time to be a meteorologist who specialized in radar and extreme weather. 

Stories about storms are told in my book, Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather

Copyright 2022 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

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