In my past two articles I took a look behind the scenes at the National Weather Service with an introduction to the Forecast Discussion and severe weather alert products. The NWS web page is a buffet of weather information that should fill you up when you are planning to photograph outdoors in dynamic weather, but when you are actually out in the field you need more bite-size weather information. In this article I will share the weather-focused applications I use on my iPhone to keep abreast of the every-changing weather. While I use an iPhone, many of these apps are also available on other mobile operating systems. Check with your device’s app store to see if these handy apps will work with your technology.
My go-to app for keeping up with fast-changing weather is Dark Sky. On a photography workshop that I was leading a couple of years ago, we were stuck in the van at a scenic viewpoint by a torrential downpour. My assistant pulled out his iPhone and activated the Dark Sky app. He told us that the rain was going to stop in 5 minutes. Almost to the minute it did and I downloaded the app that day. Using RADAR data and a proprietary weather forecasting service they developed themselves, the Dark Sky app has an uncanny ability to predict precipitation at your exact location. I especially like the weather map that allows me to watch RADAR animated loops of the precipitation in my vicinity. I use it routinely to dodge rain squalls and more often than not the app is dead-on accurate.
NOAA RADAR Pro
As with Dark Sky, this app places RADAR data at your fingertips for up to the minute information. NOAA RADAR Pro is especially good at providing RADAR loops and customizable map-based data. I use the companion Apple Watch app on my watch to grab quick glances at the RADAR. Another great feature of this app is its ability to be customized with multiple locations and informational overlays. Between Dark Sky and NOAA RADAR Pro, I can work with confidence outdoors around severe weather knowing I have the very latest information literally at my fingertips.
Other Apps Worth Looking At
The big dogs of weather forecasting (outside the NWS) also have solid mobile weather apps. Weather Underground and The Weather Channel both have full-featured apps but I find them a bit cumbersome on a small screen. Accuweather and WeatherBug have free apps that bring long-range forecasts to your device along with the immediate information you need. There are hundreds of other apps available for Apple’s iOS, and many of them are excellent. Be warned that many free apps will be cluttered with ads and prompts to upgrade to paid versions. I have found that paying the $1 or $2 for the paid versions to be well worth the small investment. Whichever weather information solution you settle on, get to know the limits of the application and who to use it before you are standing out in the pouring rain. Be safe out there and have fun being a weather-savvy photographer.