Sun, rain, cold, heat: the weather conditions outside affect each of us. When those weather conditions are severe, then the personal relationship becomes a community relationship—people together preparing for and cleaning up after some major weather event. It is no surprise that, through history, many Iowans, like people everywhere, have kept daily weather diaries. Those ordinary details connect us to large systems that blow through the individual places where we live. So much depends on the weather. It is not just the topic of conversation when we don’t know what else to say.
The Peoples’ Weather Map (PWM) is a web-based map of severe weather stories in Iowa (U.S.). On the map, users can explore historical and recent severe weather events, through words and images, in individual counties. PWM’s emphasis is, in fact, stories rather than data, but the map also provides users links to weather hazard and climate data to explore. Through videotaped interviews, PWM introduces some of Iowa’s climate scientists.
PWM is created through university-public partnerships and a particular cross-institutional partnership called Digital Bridges between the University of Iowa and Grinnell College. PWM’s interdisciplinary team has included faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students from the arts, humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences; and public partners who are weather enthusiasts, citizen scientists, local as well as state museum archivists, and recorders of weather stories. Some undergraduate interns have joined the project from other home institutions in Iowa, including Iowa State University and Drake University. (Visit Our Team.)
The purpose of PWM is to enable Iowans to view local severe weather stories and to share their severe weather stories with one another and with the world through their own images. Our purpose is also to reach out to worldwide users providing a set of local weather stories from one place on the globe. This process of sharing, we believe, broadens our understanding of how the weather challenges we face have been met in the counties of a place called Iowa and across the world.