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The best weather apps you can put on your phone

Popular Science logo Popular Science 5/9/2019 David Nield
a man that is standing in the snow: Don't get caught out in the cold.© Erik Mclean via Unsplash Don't get caught out in the cold.

Among the many hats our smartphones now wear, "meteorologist" is one that's donned frequently. With the tap of a finger, our little pocket computers can make sure we're never caught without an umbrella or sunscreen as the weather changes.

The Android and iOS app stores offer a whole host of options ready and willing to provide all manner of weather forecasts and meteorological data for you. Not all weather apps are created equal, though, so here are seven we really like for the job.

Get one or more of these apps on your smartphone, and you'll be able to stay on top of weather conditions in your immediate area or anywhere else in the world.

1. AccuWeather

a screenshot of a cell phone: AccuWeather© David Nield AccuWeather

AccuWeather prides itself on the accuracy of its forecasts, and the global weather monitoring company's free mobile app manages to pack a lot into each screen. It's got everything from instant readings on what the weather's doing now, to more detailed radar scans showing precipitation and clouds over a wider area. You can, of course, also get real-time alerts sent to your phone if the weather is about to turn.

And it's not just for sunshine and rain: The app can give details on wind speed, solar ultraviolet radiation (UV) levels, humidity, pressure, visibility, and more. It's undoubtedly one of the best weather apps out there for the depth and precision of its data.

2. Dark Sky

a close up of a map: Dark Sky© David Nield Dark Sky

Dark Sky made a name for itself predicting imminent local weather conditions using current data readings and clever algorithms, but it also offers longer-term forecasts and can cover a range of geographic areas.

Flicking between radar views, daily and weekly forecasts, temperature and wind levels, and other meteorological data is straightforward, and we really like the time machine feature that lets you explore weather conditions at a specific point in time in either the past or future.

But where Dark Sky really impresses is with its short-term forecasts and alerts about approaching storms. Use it, and you'll always know how long it's going to be before the next bout of showers.

  • Dark Sky is $3 per year for Android and $4 for iOS

3. Weather Underground

a screenshot of a cell phone: Weather Underground© David Nield Weather Underground

Weather Underground offers a bright and intuitive interface, easy access to weather forecasts wherever you need them, and enough other features to put it ahead of most of the weather apps available for your phone.

From telling you how long a current rain shower is going to last, to forecasting the wind speed in your area next week, Weather Underground is packed with useful data and features. These include a radar map, severe weather alerts, ski resort reports, and sunrise and sunset times.

One of the app's best features is a "smart forecast" tool for running, hiking, or any other outdoor activity. To use it, describe the weather you'd prefer for your excursion (a sunny afternoon, perhaps), and Weather Underground will tell you when that forecast is expected next.

4. Carrot Weather

a screenshot of a cell phone: Carrot Weather© David Nield Carrot Weather

If you like your weather forecasts straightforward and honest, give Carrot Weather a look. It focuses on the basics, but does them well, with attitude—mixing in sarcastic quips and film quotes alongside its weather predictions.

As for the actual meteorological data the app spits out, you can dig in by week, by day, or by hour, checking out everything from temperatures to wind speed. The graphic at the top of the app screen is particularly useful, showing an at-a-glance representation of the weather for the next few hours.

You can get alerts about upcoming weather patterns and switch between a variety of data sources too, including Dark Sky, The Weather Channel and AccuWeather. If you pick Carrot Weather for your weather app though, it'll be for the entertaining, no-nonsense interface.

5. The Weather Channel

a screenshot of a cell phone: The Weather Channel© David Nield The Weather Channel

If you want the experience of watching TV weather on your phone, then the mobile apps from The Weather Channel are perfect. They'll give you a quick summary of current and upcoming conditions, but you'll also get a ton of short video forecasts, too.

However you like your weather prediction (either in static or video form), everything is elegantly laid out and easy to get around. So whether you want a quick update on what the weather's going to do in the next 10 minutes or want to take a deep dive into next week's expected wind speeds and precipitation levels, The Weather Channel has you covered.

We also like the little flashcards that show key data (such as precipitation risk and sunset time) in a rotating carousel. For the sheer number of different ways you can get at weather information, this app definitely earns a place on our list of best weather apps.

6. Flowx

a close up of a map: Flowx© David Nield Flowx

Flowx packs a bunch of data into visualizations that manage to be both mesmerizing and, actually, pretty useful. If you want your weather forecast to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible, it's worth giving Flowx a go.

The app charts important information such as temperatures and precipitation levels in a variety of ways—pick the one you most like the look of—and also features the most detailed radar map we've seen so far. Sliding your finger across the screen while looking at the map lets you jump forward and backward in time, too.

It's not quite as good at near-term forecasts and simple displays of information as some of the other apps we've mentioned, but Flowx excels at detailed looks at longer periods of time. There's no iOS app at the time of writing, but one is planned.

7. RadarScope

a screenshot of a video game: RadarScope© David Nield RadarScope If you're after the most detailed meteorological picture of an area you can get, RadarScope could be the app for you. It has an almost bewildering array of high-resolution radar data for checking forecasts and keeping track of severe weather warnings.

The app describes itself as being "for weather enthusiasts and meteorologists" and has a price tag to match those lofty claims. What you see in this app is actual native radar data sourced from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "next-generation radar" (NEXRAD) and Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) locations in the United States. In other words, it's the same data professional weather forecasters make use of.

RadarScope is particularly good for tracking and chasing storms across the country, so could be worth the outlay if you're in a tornado or flash flood hotspot. The learning curve is steeper here than it is with the other apps in this list, but RadarScope rewards the investment.

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