By Tony Barlow
There is nothing more painful as a meteorologist than learning of a few of the simple mistakes people make when looking for weather information. When it comes to spending time outdoors accurate weather information is not only very important, it can also save your life. In this blog I am going to outline some of the best tools for finding valuable weather information. There are a lot of weather tools and apps on the market, hopefully this will help weed through them.
All Around Best Source for Weather Information
This is the National Weather Service, your tax dollars pay their salary so you may as well use them! The NWS has a regional presence all across the country. That means there are people near you making forecast decisions. The NWS also has some of the smartest meteorologists out there. I will always choose someone local over a national brand, in each part of the country there are localized challenges with terrain and weather patterns that demand a local presence to provide an accurate forecast. When you go to the site, the path to your local forecast is pretty straightforward, once you get there bookmark it and you should be all set. If you want detail, click on the Hourly Weather Graph. Finally if you are a weather nerd like me there is a lot more to explore as well.
Best Weather App for Forecasts
I have had the best luck with WeatherBug when it comes to my iPhone. They have all the basics covered and also provide a nice hourly look at the forecast. The app market is flooded with weather options and I usually try to check out the latest gimmick. There are some cool items out there but when you need a solid forecast I have found WeatherBug to be the best.
Best Radar App
This is a bit of a splurge! As a meteorologist I rely on a lot of the professional radar features that RadarScope provides, they have everything I need. If you are on the water and you see clouds building a good radar app could save your life. If you don’t want to spend the money and don’t need the bells and whistles the WeatherBug app also has radar which is solid.
Weather Radio App
iMap Weather Radio ($9.99)
This is my plug for weather safety. The ability to receive the latest weather watches and warnings is very important. This app will use your GPS to alert you if there is a weather alert where you are. You can also set some points of interest (your house, your parent’s house, your business, etc) to get alerts. You are at your most vulnerable when you sleep, this will wake you up and give you the latest alert information.
What to Avoid
I definitely don’t want to bash anyone. As an entrepreneur and meteorologist I appreciate all of the private businesses out there that do weather. The challenge with many of them is that they are working off of automated data and formulas to come up with forecast data. They don’t have a local presence so when things change quickly they aren’t able to adjust because they work on a national scale. Their forecasts are just a little less accurate than what you will get from your local TV station or the National Weather Service. This would include sources like The Weather Channel and Accuweather. As a former small town Meteorologist I can tell that while the presentation and shiny graphics might look better on The Weather Channel, the forecast from your local meteorologist will be more accurate. I can almost guarantee it.
The Bottom Line
If you choose the right sources for your weather data you are going to be a more prepared outdoorsman. When it comes to having success in the outdoors it is all about using the best tools you can afford. I consider these weather sites and apps to be another tool for you to capitalize on your time outdoors.