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Friday, January 6, 2017

Weather Underground : The Best Weather App & Website

The weather affects everyone's lives daily, so it's important to pay attention to accurate forecasts to make the best use of your time. I used to rely on the Weather Channel's website and iPhone app. The Weather Channel has to be the best, right? Well last year sometime they redesigned their website and app to my dislike, and it forced me to look for viable alternatives. Let me tell you I'm so glad they botched their update, because I found something I liked much better - Weather Underground. I'm going to give a quick and dirty run down of why I like it so much.

As soon as the app loads, it uses your GPS location and searches for the nearest weather station. You get current weather data from the nearest source, not from the airport on the other side of the county, or the top of the hospital downtown. Some data does come from the National Weather Service (NWS), but local data mostly comes from a PWS - Personal Weather Station. Its great to see a crowd sourced community of 100,000 personal weather stations united in one app. When I'm at my home, I see the data from my own Netatmo weather station. It can't get much more local than that! Also here is a weather map summery. If you touch it, it opens the map full screen with lots of options, like past and present radar, overview of other weather station's data like temperature, rainfall & humidity. The smaller map on the main screen give you a quick preview of what might be in the area, along with the current readings of temps, humidity and winds.

Scroll down and you'll find my favorite part. The 10 day forecast chart. Here at a glance you can see the forecast by the day and hour for temperature and precipitation. Its not enough to simply know the high will be 50 degrees or that there is a 10% chance of rain. When? How long? What is the trend for the week? Its all here and very easy to visualize whats going on when. Now you can easily decide the best day AND the best time to mow the grass, wash the car, go skiing, run errands, sleep in, plant your garden, work on the roof, or whatever you have going on without even reading a single number. If its supposed to rain on your parade, at a glance you can see perhaps the rain might be in the evening hours. This is what makes Weather Underground so useful.  Its such a great tool for time management. Your time is valuable and once its gone its gone. Plan accordingly!

The desktop site is even better, adding wind direction with speed. The precipitation graph turns pink when there is snow or ice. Its worth keeping as an open tab on your desktop browser to help plan your daily and weekly activities.

Continue scrolling down on the app and you'll see more local data, along with a video library of weather related news and information.

Keep on scrolling... This screen shows  the sunrise & sunset times in a nice pie chart. Complete with first light and last light. Click on the Moon tab and you'll see moonrise, moonset, next full and next new moons as well as the current moon. Handy for us amateur astronomers!

Next we have Webcams nearby. Some people volunteer outdoor webcams so you can SEE conditions in realtime. You can even set favorites and share your own photos.

Finally we have some social media links, forums, and your own personal blog if you choose to do so. Below that will be info about the NEAREST hurricane or cyclone anywhere in the world, even if its 4000 miles away.

Final notes...

If you're interested in installing your own personal weather station there are many different weather stations to choose from. Many are expensive and complex to setup with limited ways to view and chart data. You can start simple like I did with a $149 Netatmo sensor set. This gets you indoor and outdoor temps, humidity, air pressure, as well as indoor co2 and sound pollution levels. Later you can add a rain gauge and wind gauge.  Netatmo also has their own unique app and webpage thats really cool and worthy of its own review.  Note that you can choose to keep your outdoor weather station data to yourself, or share it with others either through Netatmo or the wider community on Weather Underground. 

Here's some useful links.

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