Being the weather-geek that I am people often ask where I get my weather information and what apps I use. Unfortunately I see far too many people getting information from less than accurate sources which frustrates me to no end, especially when they then complain about an inaccurate forecast. Over the years I have downloaded a great many apps but have found most of them to be crap. Instead I find myself returning to the same few time after time for my weather information. Because I believe everyone should have a reliable source of weather information I have listed some of the apps and sources I find to be the most useful.
The National Weather Service (www.weather.gov) – While this isn’t technically an app it is my #1 go-to resource when it comes to checking the forecast. Believe it or not the forecasts issued by the National Weather Service are very often the foundation upon which other entities (TV stations, private companies, etc) build their forecasts. They are also great on twitter, providing short and easy to understand briefings and explanations on local weather events. If you don’t already, you should be following @NWSHouston. While I know many people are wary of any government product these days the National Weather Service is one of the few government agencies devoid of politics. Liberal or conservative ideologies have no part in determining what the temperature will be or whether it will rain tomorrow.
Weather Underground – The Weather Underground app will give you an all encompassing forecast like many others out there, however what I love about it is the fact that it can give you hyper-local weather information. Weather Underground gives you access to a network of thousands of personal weather stations across the country. This allows you to get the current conditions from weather stations that are very often less than a mile or two from your current location. I find this preferable to other apps which base their current conditions on observations taken at either Bush IAH or Hobby. Also, because of Weather Underground’s dense collection of weather stations you can track the progress of details you can’t always see on radar, such as fronts, in real time. I find this especially intriguing during winter when big-time cold fronts roll through producing a huge temperature gradient across the area (with the strongest fronts you can see a difference of 20 to 30 degrees over the span of just a couple of miles).
Storm by Weather Underground – This is an app by Weather Underground primarily focused on radar data, and it is one of the better free radar apps I have seen. Yes this app will display the basic greens, yellows and reds you are used to but it can do so much more. It includes a feature that shows a storms projected future movement, and you can even set it to notify you when rain or lightning comes within a certain distance of your location. Additionally it allows you to click on storms cells to display attributes of the storm such as how strong the winds are, how big the hail is, and even how likely it is to spawn a tornado.
The Weather Channel – I will admit that for a very long time I wanted nothing to do with Big Weather aka The Weather Channel. I found both their their website and app to be too bloated with ads and click-bait, and did not like the fact that many of their forecasts were nothing more than straight computer model output. However in the interest of this post I went ahead and downloaded their app again and I will concede that it is not as bad as I remembered. The app provides all of the information most people are looking for in their weather app and it is fairly easy to use. I have come around on the computer model aspect as models have become more and more reliable, but I still have beef with the amount of click-bait crap shoved into every corner. Perhaps though the thing I am most impressed with is the radar in the app. It runs relatively smoothly and includes many, but not all, of the features in the Storm radar app (The Weather Channel now owns Weather Underground). Although I am personally still partial to Weather Underground, I wouldn’t have a problem recommending The Weather Channel app.
RadarScope – Ok, I’m going to nerd out a bit here so just indulge me for a second. RadarScope is my absolute favorite weather app. While it is not free like the others I have listed – it costs $10 – it is miles ahead of any other radar app out there. It is the go-to app for professional meteorologists, storm chasers, and weather enthusiast because it puts all of the radar’s capabilities in your hand (doppler radar does a whole lot more than just show where rain is, but that is probably a post for another day). A small sampling of the things this app allows you to see include the winds inside of a storm, rainfall rates, hail estimates, and even if debris is being thrown into the air by a tornado. Just last month the wind data in the app allowed me to see that a possible tornado was passing very close to my house. If you just want to see where the rain is the apps I listed above are very capable, however if you are interested in a deeper dive into the storms this program is well worth the investment as you just cannot get the caliber of information RadarScope provides on any other app.
I am always open to trying out new apps so if you have a different weather app you use let me know and I will give it a try.