I have two hobbies that are intertwined with each other: amateur (ham) radio and weather. As a ham radio operator I participate in Skywarn, a joint program between the National Weather Service and communities or organizations where individuals report weather events such as wind gusts, hail, rain, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes to the National Weather Service office. This data helps National Weather Service meteorologists understand what is happening “on the ground,” thereby improving forecasting and radar imagery. Read on to see how I use the iPad to keep tabs on the weather…but be warned…it gets slightly geeky toward the end.
As of this writing there are 40 applications that come up when one searches for “weather” in the App Store. I currently use two that provide real time data to my device.
WunderMap by Weather Underground uses the iPad’s location to display an interactive map containing weather stations within their network, which contains over 16,000 stations! You can pinch to zoom out, and do the reverse to zoom in. To see current conditions and forecasts at that station, all you have to do is tap on it. The map can be changed to Satellite or hybrid, can show webcam locations, and be layered with radar and satellite cloud data. This is a great application for general weather, especially if you live in an area like Chicago where temperature variations can be as much as 10 degrees depending on how far you are from the lake. You can also search the map using a city name, state, zip code, or airport code. I used it to see what the weather was like in Charlotte when my mother called to say that she was delayed while returning home from a visit and it was great to see what was headed her way.
Weatherbug has been around on Windows desktops for many years, and is a product of AWS Convergence Technologies. They partner with government, schools, and businesses to gather real time weather data. The iPad application will use the iPad’s location to display a local map that shows you rain, frozen precipitation, or snow. You can change the map to display temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed, I.R. satellite, visible satellite, radar, or worldwide satellite. You can also display tomorrow’s high or low temperature. On the right side of the screen you’ll find current conditions, a list of cameras, the five day forecast, and an hourly forecast. There is also a button to view weather alerts. I use this product to verify what I am seeing on WunderMap and to see if there are any differences in forecasts.
In addition to these applications, I use these websites to get more data:
National Weather Service: The National Weather Service website will provide you with information about local weather, radar, headlines, storm reports, warnings, and more. They also have links to other information of interest to the average viewer. The weather discussions can be beneficial to see what the forecasters expect to see.
Weather Underground: This site contains a wealth of weather information including weather station history, high definition radar (where available), weather discussions, and more. They also have sites for mobile phones and iPhones. All of the sites work well on the iPad. They offer some very good map and radar tutorials to jump start your weather exploration.
…and here is where it gets geeky.
College of DuPage NexLab: This community college program provides A LOT of weather data for free, and contains dozens of links to various other sources. Much of the data is for advanced weather observers but it’s a site worth bookmarking.
Storm Prediction Center Mesoscale Analysis Pages: The Storm Prediction Center is the team responsible for forecasting severe weather across the country. This site contains discussions about what is happening with severe weather. If you are interested in the geeky technical data this site is for you. The mobile version allowed me to select the sector but nothing else, so use the normal site on the iPad. These maps will give you surface observations, CAPE (a measurement of instability in the troposphere), and a slew of other data.
So far the iPad has been great for keeping tabs on the weather, and it works as a great display to augment my home weather tracking. I can’t wait to try it while using my mobile phone as a hotspot at the campsite! With over 40 weather applications and dozens of websites you’re bound to find a combination that works for you.