Late last week as the U.S. remembered the landfall of the most destructive hurricane on record, Google announced that it added a hurricane tracker to search results, along with semi-personalized advice on how to prepare for the storm depending on your location.
Late last week as Tropical Storm Erika was dumping a torrent of rain on the Leeward Islands, Google’s search results for the storm showed the forecast track from the National Hurricane Center, and results for a particular location suggested the storm arrival time, the watches or warnings in effect and ways to prepare.
In a blog post announcing the storm tracker, Google said that the safety information comes straight from FEMA, and is tailored to your location and the amount of time you have to prepare. “If you search for a specific storm when it’s still several days away, you may see a map of the developing weather event and a recommendation to start preparing an emergency kit,” Google writes. “If the storm is only hours away from your location, you might receive a reminder to start charging your phone in case power goes out. And if you search when the storm is nearby, you’ll get the most urgent information, like how to avoid injury from fast-moving water or flying debris.”
Google says the new tracking tools are a part of its Crisis Response project, which was born during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Scanning Google’s results for Hurricane Fred on Monday did not initiate the tracker — as of right now the tools are only available for the United States and U.S. territories.
The new hurricane tracker will provide vital information to those in the path of the storm without having to dig through search results or weed through social media. The internet is a potpourri of weather and preparedness information — both good and terrible — and this eliminates the guess-work for those at risk, narrowing down the forecast and preparation advice to the best and most reliable sources.
But it also makes it far less likely that a Googler will click on an actual weather website, like The Weather Channel, Accuweather or even the National Weather Service itself (from where Google is pulling the storm information), and far more likely they will stay on Google.
This isn’t Google’s first foray into the weather space. When you search for the weather in a particular location, Google offers and entire suite of meteorological information, including current conditions and a nifty interactive forecast chart that you can toggle between temperature, precipitation and wind. The forecast data itself actually comes from The Weather Channel, and while there’s a little grey link to the website below the forecast, a Googler would need to scroll down past the module to get to their favorite weather source, and at that point they already have a pretty good idea of what the weather’s going to be like.
For the Weather Company’s part (the overarching company that includes the Weather Channel, Weather.com and Weather Underground), they are happy to be in partnership with the most-visited website in the world.
“Google and The Weather Company are aligned in our shared mission to provide important information to our users worldwide,” Cameron Clayton, president of product and technology at the Weather Company, said in an email to the Washington Post. “The Weather Company, alongside governments, partner with Google to provide the world’s best weather solutions. We are happy to see Google continue to join with us and others in helping citizens stay informed.”
However, for the non-Weather.com’s, including Accuweather and the Weather Company’s other website Weather Underground, the additional weather data in search results could mean fewer revenue-generating eyeballs, especially during hurricane and tornado season.