Finally, a Weather Forecast Presented in Old-School ASCII

It’s perfect for those who love meteorology and know their way around Linux.

Image Igor Chubin/wttr.in
Igor Chubin/wttr.in

Geeks have their own dating sites, clothing stores, and even bars—why not a weather service, too?

Well, now they do thanks to Igor Chubin, a Russian living in Germany, “hardcore UNIX/Linux developer and devoted opensource enthusiast,” and inveterate polymath fluent in “7 human languages and a dozen computer languages,” he writes via Twitter. Chubin has created an endearingly old-school weather report for “geeks, software developers, hackers, and tech people,” presenting the forecast in ASCII characters like yellow lines (sunny); gray, bulbous parentheses (cloudy); and drifting asterisks (snow).

Simply visit the site to see what the local skies promise over the next couple of days, or type a city after the URL to examine a different region (for example, http://wttr.in/new_york). The pictographs at left indicate general conditions such as “Clear” or “Light sleet,” while three lower rows display wind speed and direction, visibility, and precipitation amount and probability. Adding ?m to the end of the URL will get you metric equivalent for everything.

Igor Chubin/wttr.in

The web service, which is based on work by Markus Teich, draws from several public and commercial sources and doesn’t always agree with official agencies like the National Weather Service (specifically, temperature readings are sometimes off). It’s accurate enough to help plan your day—just don’t use it to go on international boating trips, say, or to close a school district.

Chubin is planning to tweak the tool in the weeks ahead—perhaps adding pictographs of the moon at night, for instance—so if you have ideas for improvement, hit him up on Twitter. Meanwhile, here’s more from the developer on why he built this curious thing:

Doing many outdoor activities (predominantly long distance running) I often needed actual weather reports, just to plan my activities better (to find the best time for them, plus to know what kind of outfit I will need). To my surprise, I didn’t manage to find a convenient and reliable way to access the weather reports from the [UNIX/Linux] console. There are plenty of services that have text/console interface, but they are not intuitive, or they have no web counterpart (and you don’t always have a console at hand, sometimes it’s only a web browser or a smartphone). There are some tools that are really good, but they need special access keys to access weather services, and they need to be installed, so you don’t have them by default at hand.

So I decided to create a service that will cover all these problems at once and will suit all my needs (as well as the need of other users like me):
1) It will be accessible with the same comfort from a UNIX-shell, a web browser and from a smartphone;
2) It will be intuitive and convenient;
3) It will be completely free and won’t need any access keys to use;
4) It will support as many access ways and network protocols as possible (this feature is not yet fully implemented but there are some new possibilities to come);
5) It will allow equally easily access to weather reports about any locations in the world for all people in the world independently of their language and their origin (not yet fully implemented but will be implemented soon).

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.