The recent drought in California has helped demonstrate the importance of understanding rainfall patterns, both here and across the world. Thanks to an innovative app recently launched by a team at UC Irvine, the task has become a little easier.
“This app provides a useful alternative to existing measures,” said Soroosh Sorooshian, Director of the university’s Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing and CCST Council Member. “Usually, rainfall info is collected through gauges, or some countries have radar systems. But many countries’ resources are lacking, so they don’t necessarily have good comprehensive coverage.”
The iRain app processes data from orbiting satellites to get information on rainfall around the planet, using a custom algorithm to generate animations of rainfall around the world. The app allows users to focus on local areas and track rainfall patterns over specific time periods. Although the app’s information is not quite a real-time picture, it provides a relatively consistent worldwide coverage with only about a one-hour delay.
The concept for the app was developed by Phu Nguyen, an assistant adjunct professor of civil and environmental engineering. Phu started working on the application years ago as a UC Irvine graduate student, along with Sorooshian and civil and environmental engineering professor Kuo-lin Hsu.
The app, which is available for both Android devices and iPhones, can also be accessed online at the iRain website. Users of mobile devices can crowdsource additional data on snow and rain in their areas directly to the app.
“Understanding patterns of rainfall is critical in California, both when it’s below average and when it’s above,” said Sorooshian. “This tool will hopefully serve to help users, including state and local officials, gain a more accurate understanding of what’s coming out of the skies.”
M. Daniel DeCillis, PhD is the Spotlight editor and a Senior Research Associate at the California Council on Science and Technology.
The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization established via the California State Assembly – making California’s policies stronger with science since 1988. CCST provides California’s Executive and Legislative Branches with independent scientific advice, convening a diverse network of expertise spanning California’s public and private universities, community colleges, and Federal research laboratories.