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The Weather Apps We Use: It’s Art & Science and There Are Many Options…

The trajectory of your weekend is oftentimes determined by the weather forecast. Will it rain, or will it not? Sometimes is hard to predict and we’ve all been there where we look at the forecast one day and the next it’s the complete opposite. And if you spend a fair amount of time outside, you know that it’s helpful to have some trusty apps that you can use as your go-to for the weather.



I oftentimes give my best friend a hard time for using the Apple Weather app — or what I raz on him about “My First Weather app.” Of course, I am only kidding when it comes to using Apple Weather. It’s trusty, I am pretty sure it’s fed by The Weather Channel and is handy for access on your phone and Apple iWatch. However, there are many more apps available for you to consume and we have a few favorites.


So Is It Art or Science for Weather and Apps?


It's both. The science of weather forecasting is based on complete mathematical models that are oftentimes the best assumptions and rarely accurate until 24 hours of the day. It still ceases to amaze me. The fact that we can use math and algorithms and black magic to predict the weather is 'sci-fi' and we're living in that age.


The art part comes to life with the fact that you have to start looking at trends. And even trends for your region of the country. For example, I know that Virginia is often rainy year-round with a few assumptions.

  • If rain or snow typically starts to peek its way into the forecast early in the week, it really has to be over 30-40% before I start to think it will increase

  • If there's a super low chance of rain or snow, history has really shown that it's most likely going to land that way

  • If it's up in the 70-80% range, we'll then start to watch if it shifts the start and end times during the day - because at that point we look at when the start and stop will be.

  • If it's dead center in the middle of the day, you can probably count on the rain that day

  • If it's on the fringe hours, morning or night, it sometimes will start to shift and you'll see that mid-week

Now you may not check the forecast till the day before. I commend you for your self-control.


But oftentimes I am the one calling the shots on where we're going, so I am watching the forecast in Frederick to the north, Shenandoah to the west, Lost River to the super-west, Richmond or Charlottesville to the south, and Rehobaoh to the east.


This gives me a sense of which parks and trails we'll hit over the weekend. And during the week, when we get out early in the mornings, it doesn't matter, we pull out the Arc'Teryx and hit the trail if it's raining. The dog doesn't seem to mind, so why should we?


The point is that you can:

  • Get a trajectory of what type of forecast you'll have during the weekend if you keep tabs

and

  • Pick a city to the north, east, south, and west to see where the storm patterns are forming

I'd say about 9 times out of 10, we can find the type of weather we're looking for. And that's not to say that we are avoiding the rain. Sometimes I need to get some shots of Addison with rain for something I'm toying with photography, so we might chase the clouds or rain.


So Which Weather Apps Are for Us?


We have a few go-to apps, but there is one primary that is frequently used and it’s more because of the functionality within the interface and the organization that runs it. If you look at all the weather apps that are available, there is an endless list of reliable sources which each have their advantages and drawbacks.


The apps that you’ve probably heard of and see in the top download list of the app store might include:

  • The Weather Channel

  • Accuweather

  • Weatherbug

  • MyRadar

  • Dark Sky

  • Plus the following...

Our favorites that are also included in that list are:

  • Weather Underground: For us, this app has been relatively accurate when it comes to predicting the weekend, but it’s not my primary source of weather tracking. It’s the stand-by and I double-check this app when the weather is unfavorable to validate or invalidate predictions.

  • Forecast Bar: This app is compatible with your Apple iWatch and is great for at-a-glance weather on your iWatch. It requires a subscription, but it's negligible if you hike outdoors on a regular basis.

  • Windy.app: This is on the first page of my iPhone screen, it’s reliable, and its interface is significantly configurable. This app brings reliability together with the view.

Tell Me More about Windy.app


For simplification purposes, let's spend time on the Windy.app – Live wind map & weather forecast product. It’s the app that we use time and time again and encourage you to check it out for yourself. The features and options are excellent, but let’s look under the hood for Windy.app – Live wind map & weather forecast. This app is actually intended for power users that need to understand Wind patterns and speeds if the name didn't lead you to that.

Picture 1. Windy.app Home Page



App Interface


Starting from the top with the interface, you can see that this is an advanced view.

Just for the basics, you can see the Home, Map, and Customization below. There are so many options that you can choose from.


Home: Just like many of the other apps, you can see that you can pin your favorites to the main page.


Map: Within the application interface, the standard view of the map shows wind direction and knots with pin drops on weather stations.


Customizing: On the right side of the app, tap the icon of the world next to "Custom#1" in the image above, you can add/remove the options from the table below. And sort the order that they appear (see below).


While there are many options for weather in the app store, the Windy.app really has a great interface backed by the World Meteorological Organization (wmo.int).


If you haven't really kept tabs on the weather and it's not for you - that's cool. If you are curious and think that it might be helpful with your planning - we hope this helps. Happy hiking and get outside (hopefully without that rain shell)!

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