Smart City Challenge #6

The Weather in London

Lead: Linda See (CASA, UCL – Talisman)


The UK Met Office has three official met stations for the city of London, which is small in comparison to the large number of amateur weather stations that regularly send their data to the UK Met Office’s Weather Observations Website (WOW). Although this website has a nice map interface for viewing weather data, it does not yet have good facilities for downloading the observations. Using code to extract the data from the site, we can use this rich source of data to develop applications and visualisations or to answer interesting research questions.

Aim of the Challenge

The aim of the challenge to is to think of an interesting way of utilising weather data. Below are some ideas:

  1. Determine how sheltered the WOW stations in London are. Using 3-D building data from the Ordnance Survey, calculate the mean building height within a 500m radius of each station. Determine what time of day each station would be in the shade. Can you build an interesting visualization to show this?
  2. Using the google maps API (, retrieve an aerial image of each station and use this to classify the surrounding land cover, e.g. is it surrounded by vegetation or concrete? NB. This API limits users to 250 image requests a day so you could use Bing Maps or Google Earth as well.
  3. Build a web app that shows rainfall data surfaces from the WOW website on top of rainfall radar images taken from ‘Datapoint’ ( to see how well they line up. Consider a slider bar that allows you to scroll through the day and watch radar and WOW data change.
  4. Build a web app to visualise surface pressure over time (which should produce some interesting patterns).
  5. Create a visualization of the latest storm that hit the UK on Sun 27/Mon 28 Oct to see how this affected the city of London.
  6. Any other idea that comes to mind! Things can get really interesting when you start to use data from multiple sources together, i.e. weather + health + transport + happiness + twitter. How you can you bring these together into a single idea / visualisation?


Ruby code for scraping data from the website will be provided including instructions for installing Ruby and getting the code running.

Skills / Interests Needed for the Challenge

This challenge is wide open so the skills needed vary from web development (if you want to create an app) to visualization and data analysis skills depending on what you want to do with the data. If you want to do something with Google Maps, Google Earth or Bing maps, we will need someone with those skills in the team. No Ruby skills are needed as such although if anyone has these, they would be welcome for making any substantial modifications to the basic code provided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *