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5 February 2012

Instant weather forecasts to be delivered via text

With the help of forecasts made by the Atmospheric Science Club, UM students and faculty members will soon be able to deal with unpredictable Miami weather conditions through text message updates each day, rain or shine.

While the Atmospheric Science Club currently shares its weather predictions on Twitter (@UMCampusCast), marketing manager Joe Kleiman came to Student Government (SG) with the idea of expanding the initiative to a broader community.

“The goal is for these texts to go out in the mornings, so that students get the alerts before they go to class in the mornings so they’re prepared,” Kleiman said.

SG brought the plan to the Information Technology (IT) Department. William Vilberg, associate director of the Instructional Advancement Center, coordinated the initiative, bringing in a UM student to write the program code.

Robert Rankin, a junior majoring in biology and philosophy who taught himself computer programming, completed the code for the program that will send out the messages. The program adds phone numbers to a database that will send the users a text message each morning with the Atmospheric Club’s forecast.

SG and IT are now working on the details of how the service will run, SG Executive Secretary Michaela Hennessy said.

Tweets are currently released between midnight and 2 a.m. daily. However, the times might change once the text forecasts start.

“My hope is that it will be up and running by the middle of this semester so that we can work out any kinks until the summer,” Hennessy said.

The weather text system should be presented to students in its full form by the start of the fall 2012 semester, Hennessy said.

Kleiman and the club’s president, George Houck, compile the Twitter forecasts from data on weather websites. Other members will do weekly rotations once the forecasts are extended to campus-wide text messages.

The forecasts are tailored to the UM community, Kleiman said. During football season, the club will give a tailgate forecast and a game-time forecast in addition to the usual morning prediction.