Sunrise, sunset forecasting tool SunsetWx partners with The Weather Channel

Jacob DeFlitch, left, Ben Reppert and Steve Hallett stand in front of the weather wall in the Myers Weather Center in Walker Building on Penn State's University Park campus. The trio developed a model to predict the vividness of sunsets and sunrises and have recently partnered with The Weather Channel to feature the technology. DeFlitch and Reppert are 2015 meteorology graduates, and Hallett is majoring in meteorology and atmospheric science. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The sun is again shining on SunsetWx, a sunrise and sunset forecasting tool devised by a trio of current and former Penn State students.

The Weather Channel, one of the world’s foremost providers of weather information, has partnered with SunsetWx and will feature its exclusive forecasting methodology on two of the network’s popular shows, AMHQ and Weather Underground. Additionally, forecasts may also appear on Local Now, providing viewers with a more hyper-local forecast.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with SunsetWx to provide customized sunset and sunrise forecasts for our AMHQ viewers.” said Nora Zimmett, senior vice president of programming for The Weather Channel. “Sunrises and sunsets are some of the most beautiful and moving experiences in nature, and this unique product will give our viewers the information they need to observe that perfect sunrise or sunset.”

SunsetWx, founded by CEO Jacob DeFlitch (class of 2015), Ben Reppert (class of 2015) and current student Steve Hallett, uses about 20 factors such as humidity, pressure changes, and clouds at various levels in the atmosphere, to determine if a sunrise or sunset will produce picturesque bold colors that capture the attention of onlookers. Wispy, high altitude clouds are an indicator of colorful sunsets, while thick, lower-hanging clouds lower the forecast because they tend to block the iconic views above. Developer Justin Lowery, a student at the Art Institute of Charlotte in North Carolina, joined the team in 2016.

SunsetWx’s forecasting map looks much like a weather map, with warmer colors such as red and orange signaling a better sunset and cooler colors such as green and blue forecasting a more mundane display. The map covers the continental U.S. as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.

SunsetWx made headlines in 2015, just days into its website launch when it successfully predicted a brilliant sunset along much of the densely populated East Coast. What followed was a Twitter storm of gorgeous sunsets that propelled SunsetWx into the national spotlight. The meteorologists were interviewed by media outlets including CBS This Morning, Slate, Fox News and The Washington Post.

“Our company is excited to be partnered with The Weather Channel, a staple in the weather industry,” DeFlitch said. “Since our inception, we have been operating with the goal to provide a practical and accurate service that everyone can use and relate to. We are thrilled that The Weather Channel recognizes the uniqueness and the value in our product.”

As the company continues to grow, it’s exploring a few areas to expand the forecast’s reach. The next big step is the release of a mobile-phone application.

The founders said a connection with Penn State alumna Jen Carfagno, an on-camera meteorologist with The Weather Channel, helped bridge the gap from University Park to Atlanta, The Weather Channel’s headquarters.

So did the team's experiences at Penn State.

"Penn State helped lay the foundation for SunsetWx, from both the scientific and business aspects,” said Reppert, now a research assistant for the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science. “The education we received through the department was second-to-none, providing us with a firm, accurate base for our work. And the University’s promotion of creativity and entrepreneurship was also tremendous. Through Happy Valley Launchbox, we furthered our knowledge regarding the necessities of creating and sustaining a successful business. Then our extensive alumni base helped us to take SunsetWx worldwide.”

Last Updated July 26, 2017