As a (former) professional meteorologist, people love to ask me what weather app I use. I giggle inside because that’s like asking a surgeon what sort of knife she uses!* Military families often find themselves facing some unfamiliar weather patterns. For example, moving from San Antonio to Boston taught me a lot about snow…and measuring it in feet.
Before we get started, I feel like I should make a bit of a public service announcement.
• During severe weather events, always pay attention to your local media. Resources like The Weather Channel and the apps I mention below will not be able to give you as specific information as your local TV station or weather radio.
• Take a moment to review the National Weather Service’s Weather Ready Nation website. Make sure you know where you will go and what actions to take during different weather events. (Fun fact: Tornadoes have been documented in every state! No one is immune!)
And now, the four best weather apps to get you through severe weather season (and beyond)!
#1: iMap Weather Radio
This app is the ultimate weather radio! Whether you’re at home, at work, or traveling, as long as you have your mobile device, this app will alert you to severe weather in your area. You can set favorite locations to monitor multiple locations. This is great to see if family members are being affected by severe weather. You can customize notifications, so you only get the alerts you want. It will even read the text out loud!
Free Alternative: It’s not an app, but check out Interactive NWS or iNWS from the National Weather Service (the government agency that issues watches, warnings and advisories). Using this web app, you can set it up to send you emails and/or text messages when there is severe weather in one or many areas you specify. Locations can be a city, zip code, landmark, county or custom drawn area!
MacBook, iOS, Android
This one is for the true weather weenies out there. If you don’t know the difference between radar data and satellite data, see the free alternative below. This is pure radar data on the go, friends. If you want to know what the temperature is going to be tomorrow, don’t ask this guy. However, if you want to know what velocities look like on that hook echo forming two counties to your southwest, this is your app! From the RadarScope website: “These aren’t smoothed PNG or GIF images, this is real Level 2 and Level 3 radar data rendered in its original radial format for a high level of detail.” It even includes the Dual-Pol products. Set up a favorites list to quickly toggle between radars.
Pro tip: Download the iPad app and get the iPhone app for free! #winning
Free Alternative: I get it, not everyone needs to (over)analyze every storm. If you just want to see if it’s raining somewhere, try iWeathr.com (not a typo, there is no second “e”). Again, technically not an app, but it is designed specifically for iOS devices. So pop open a browser on your mobile device (they target iOS users, sorry Android friends!) and head over to iWeathr.com and select your desired location.
Help us help you! The Meteorological Phenomena Near the Ground (or mPING) app is less about providing you with information and more about you providing the scientists with data! So if your witnessing weather happening in your location, use this app to report what you’re observing. Report types include: rain, snow, hail, wind damage, tornado(!), flood, landslide, and reduced visibility. Your reports will be use to help meteorologists improve weather predicting technology. I encourage you to be sure you sure of what you’re witnessing. (For example, if you’re in Boston and it’s January and there’s ice falling from the sky, that’s sleet, not hail.) You can also see a map of what other people are reporting.
#4: iOS native weather app
On all iPhones
When it comes to just checking what the temperature is outside before leaving for work or seeing what’s in store for the next five days, it’s hard to beat the native weather app on my iPhone. It says the data comes from Yahoo! which may mean it comes from Accuweather or some other source, but it works for me.
If you have an Android device or are interested in other options, there are a seemingly endless supply of weather apps that will tell you current weather and a 5-7 day forecast. I always recommend people visit weather.gov, the website of the National Weather Service (NWS). They don’t have a mobile app (yet), but your taxpayers are paying for these forecasts and, as a former employee of the NWS, I know the forecasters there are the best in the business.
So there they are! Obviously there are a lot of weather apps to choose from, but these are the four that I use. Do you have a favorite weather app that isn’t listed here?
*I say that but when I was asked to come up with five, I could only come up with four that I actually use. The point is, you need different apps for different use cases.
Veronica Holtz holds a B.S. in Meteorology and an MBA, both from the University of Oklahoma. She enjoys traveling and staying active. She currently works as a Technical Writer in Boston where she lives with her USAF husband, Mike, and their cat, Pants.