Thursday, January 24, 2013

1/24 - Ryan's Top Weather Apps for 2013

Last March I made a blog post listing some of my favorite weather apps. Since the mobile weather landscape has changed a bit since then I've updated this list for 2013. With the ever-growing number of mobile devices there is similar growth in the weather app market and it's difficult to keep up with all the new apps. The apps listed below are ones that I use on my mobile devices as a student of meteorology, a broadcaster, and a storm chaser. Some of these apps are great for everyone while others are more suited to die-hard weather geeks and professionals. I'd like to point out that I use an iPhone and an iPad, but I've indicated which of the iOS apps that I use are available for Android too. I've not listed prices for these apps, except for the free ones, since they are subject to change.

RadarScope - (iPhone/iPad and Android)

Radarscope is by far the most feature-packed weather radar viewing app for mobile devices at the moment. I've been using this app since it was released in 2008 and have been impressed with the subsequent updates that have been applied since. This app is so powerful because it allows you to view radar products like base reflectivity, base velocity, VIL, echo tops, and now even dual-pol products and Level 2 SuperRes data. If you don't know what any of that means and just want a simple radar app to show you where you are in relation to the storms around you, this is still an app for you. It displays weather warning polygons, which are essential because you're able to easily see which storms are severe near your location or anywhere else in the US. If you're a die-hard weather geek or storm chaser, this app also accepts packaged weather data plans from AllisonHouse for expanded capabilities. There's even a Mac version of this app that many use in place of the famous GRLevelx suite of radar apps for Windows that cannot run on a Mac.

MyWarn - (iPhone, Android in development)

MyWarn is a simple app that alerts you of severe weather that will affect your location. Efforts to turn your smartphone in to the equivalent of a NOAA Weather Radio have been made with other apps before, but this app does it differently and simply. MyWarn's one and only function is to alert you when severe weather watches and warnings are issued for your current location, much like a real weather radio. The interface is very clean and there are quite a few settings in the app that allow you to customize which alerts you want to receive. Something I really like about this app that I've not seen in others is that it will alert you when the Storm Prediction Center issues a severe weather risk for your area, which gives the user a lengthy heads-up that severe storms may be an issue later in the day. The alerts are shown in graphical form once you open up the app so that you can see where exactly where you are inside the watch or warning area. The app's simplicity is what caught my attention because users generally don't want to fiddle with complicated setup wizards and a daunting number of customizations.

Weather Underground - (Free - iPhone/iPad [WunderMap] and Android)

Weather Underground has an impressive app because it leverages a few key features that other general weather apps don't have. Besides displaying a computer-generated for your location and a weather radar, which just about every other major weather app does, Weather Underground's app displays weather observations from their network of over 24,000 personal weather stations around the world. This means that you can get more precise current observations for your location because chances are one of these neighborhood weather stations are closer to you than the official observations. The app also displays live weather webcams from users who have opted to put those online along with their current weather data. Finally, and most impressively for weather geeks, is the ability to listen to live streaming audio from NOAA weather radio stations across the country on the smartphone edition of the app. These audio streams are crowd-sourced much like the observations and webcams, so your mileage may vary with availability of these streams for your area.

InstaWeather - (Free/Paid - iPhone and Android)

InstaWeather takes posting your weather photos on Instagram to a new level. Using weather observations nearby, InstaWeather overlays on your photo the current temperature, winds, humidity, and more at your location. There are quite a few choices in what kind of data you want to show up on your photo along with multiple styles of how that data is presented. You're not just limited to Instagram with your photos though as the app allows you to post directly to Facebook and Twitter as well as save the photo to your phone's camera roll for further sharing options. The pro version removes ads from the app and mention of the app's name from your photos. While the social weather app field is a crowded one, this app stands out for its simplicity and cool factor.

mPing - (Free - iPhone and Android)

mPing is the mobile version of the National Severe Storms Laboratory's PING Project. This project seeks to create algorithms that will better identify what kind of precipitation is falling in your neighborhood based on model data, radar data, and civilian reports. That's where you come in! This app allows you to report what kind of precipitation you're seeing at your location (rain, sleet, snow, etc) so that NSSL can bundle your report to the data that they have. The hope is that the end result of this project will be a radar product that will allow you to see exactly where sleet, snow, rain, hail, and other types of precipitation are falling instead of the loose rain/snow/mix algorithms (AKA the green, white, and pink that you see on TV radar displays) that are used now. Help the future of meteorology by sending in your reports!

Soundings Mobile - (iPhone/iPad)

Soundings Mobile is an app that is mainly aimed at die-hard weather enthusiasts, meteorologists, and storm chasers. This app allows for viewing of both observed and forecast atmospheric soundings at any location where the National Weather Service sends up daily weather balloons. This app displays Skew-Ts and hodographs and even shows a box of stats like CAPE, CIN, LCL, etc that you would find at the bottom of most sounding output pages online. The intriguing thing about this app is that the soundings displayed are not images ripped from the SPC or another online source but rather rendered on the device from the raw data. This means that you can zoom in on and manipulate the sounding without distorting the quality of what you're looking at. This app is great on the iPad but performs well on the iPhone too with an interface adapted for the smaller screen size.

WeatherGeek Pro - (iPhone/iPad and Android)

WeatherGeek Pro is for, well, weather geeks! It is a fairly simple forecast model viewing app that displays output from the GFS, NAM, SREF, WRF, RAP, and other models. As an added "bonus", you can view MOS output for any location within the app. This is a great app if you need to keep up with the latest model runs without the added frustration of navigating NCEP's website on a small screen. The app now has items that you can buy within the program with like ECMWF model viewing and additions map views for certain models. This is not an app I'd recommend unless you have some experience with weather models and forecasting.

AeroWeather - (Free/Paid - iPhone/iPad)
AeroWeather makes it easy to keep up with your favorite METAR sites and the TAF forecasts for them. While these products are aimed at aviation they are useful to any meteorologist or weather geek looking for raw METAR data. An example of when I use this app the most is during winter weather events with mixed precipitation types. At a glance you're able to see exactly who's reporting snow, who has freezing rain, and who is seeing sleet. The free version of this app displays the surface observations and their TAFs while the paid version expands upon that with radar images, webcams, and further airport information for pilots.

These are eight apps that I use frequently, but this doesn't mean that there aren't other good ones out there. Leave a comment on this post with your favorite weather apps!

(Disclaimer: I did not receive compensation for or was asked to post this list of apps. These apps are merely ones that I use and enjoy personally and I receive no financial incentive for mentioning them on this blog.)

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