I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a huge weather geek. My partner is studying meteorology and I’m more interested in the GIS/data side of things, but between the two of us, I’d wager around 40% of our conversations are about weather and climate. We each have our own preferences for smartphone apps that help us predict and analyze the weather, but I’ve compiled a list of the four we use most often.
- RadarScope: RadarScope is by far the most comprehensive weather app out there. It’s used by most professional meteorologists, and it’s used to show the current weather, both precipitation and wind velocity. This makes it the ideal program for predicting tornadoes and other types of severe weather in real time. If you can spot a tornado signature on your local radar, often you can predict where the tornado will form before it’s warned by the NWS, giving you extra time to get to safety.
- Windy: Windy is just about the opposite of RadarScope, but it’s equally as useful. While it’s not always accurate down to the minute (or even the hour), it provides reasonably accurate multi-day national weather predictions for a period of up to nine days, including storm coverage, rain, snow, air quality, pressure changes, UV index, wind speeds, humidity, and a plethora of sea conditions. It’s fun to try out all the different parameters, but where Windy really outdoes the others is in hurricane modeling. There are plenty of ways to get long-range hurricane data online, but most require some type of meteorology knowledge. Not so for Windy, which gives the user a list of easy-to-access weather modeling systems, and a simple slider for the time frame you’d like to see modeled.
- Accuweather: Accuweather really shines when it comes to short-term predictions and extremely specific locations. If you want to know what’s going to happen at your exact location within the next two to four hours, you want Accuweather. Many weather applications predict what’s going to happen by taking your phone’s location data, finding out what town or zip code you live in, and displaying the weather for that general area. Accuweather, on the other hand, takes your phone’s location data and displays the weather for exactly where you are at the moment you open the app.
- Red Cross Emergency: Red Cross has an entire suite of applications designed to give you NWS alerts in a specified radius around your location. When a severe weather event occurs, NWS alerts Red Cross, and the Red Cross app blares a siren letting you know the weather in the area you’re monitoring is becoming dangerous. While there are individual Red Cross apps for each type of severe weather (plus one for First Aid), Red Cross Emergency combines them all to show only the most dangerous types of weather.
To sum it all up, Accuweather will accurately tell you what’s going to happen in the next couple hours, Windy will give you a general idea of what’s going to happen in the next nine days, and RadarScope can tell you if that scary looking cloud in the distance is actually dangerous, as well as letting you know the general path of a tornado that’s already on the ground. Red Cross Emergency is more of a “set it and forget it” app: you tell the app where you live and it’ll set off an alarm when you have severe weather in your area.