Sunday, January 24, 2016

King of the weather apps

(Ed Note: this is a long post and will take a while to load because of the amount of screen shots.)

By now, I suspect that there are very few of you that don't know that Tim and I are both pilots and, as a result, are complete nerds when it comes to all things weather forecasting. When you're a pilot, weather forecasting is the core of all flying decisions. It rules flying as much as it rules sailing and cruising. Since we always make our own go/no go weather decisions, we surround ourselves with all sorts of weather apps and cross-check them religiously. We've done lots of posts before about various weather apps that we use like Pocket Grib, NOAA Now, Aviation Weather, Marine Weather, Deep Weather, WindyTy and Predict Wind. We also occasionally use Passage Weather, Weather Underground, and for regular daily sit-still forecasts, Weather Bug.  So it may come as a surprise to you that we may, just may, have found a single-source weather app to replace them all.

During this week's extensive coverage of winter storm Jonas on the Weather Channel in the lounge at Vero Beach, one of the anchors just briefly mentioned in passing an app that he was using on his iPad for the show called Storm. It's a Weather Underground app, but a separate one from their regular weather app and is, unfortunately, only available on iOS at the moment. It has so much information in it that it could easily overwhelm a weather newbie, but to old pilots like us it's like opening a big stack of Christmas presents. Last night there was a whole lot of, "Wow - look at this!" and "Hey if you touch this symbol look what you get!" I told you we were serious weather nerds. So just in case you happen to be one of the aforementioned weather newbies, or just in case you don't want to spend most of a day figuring out the app yourselves, here is a tour. I was fortunate enough to have winter storm Jonas to help with all the screen details.

When you first open the app you have a page that is ready to customize, but before you do, click on the settings menu in the upper right hand corner and set your units. The settings menu is the three dots that the yellow arrow is pointing to.

After you have your units set, click on the down menu in the upper left hand corner and set your location. You can either pick a location or you can choose the follow me location. Once you set a location, the data for that location will appear in the lower section of the screen.

Next, you'll start to build the layers that you want to see represented on your page. The layers menu is the toolbar on the right side of the page.

On my page, the layers I have selected that you see in the screen shot below are:

Enhanced Global Radar, Storm Tracks, Windstream, Fronts, Severe Outlooks, Tropical Tracks, Tropical Model Tracks, Tornado/Severe Storms, Tropical, Winter, Marine
There area other choices available to you as well, so poke around and try different things.

On my main map page, the red pie-shaped storm indicator that you can see on the right side of this screen shot in Florida represents a tornadic signature. if you touch the red pie-shaped storm track indicator on the main map it will bring up this little window. It will tell you what cities are in the track of this cell for the next 60 minutes. At the bottom of the window it will also tell you what other things apply. This storm track was in the purple shaded area off the east coast of Florida that was under a Gale Warning as well as a Small Craft Advisory. In the main black middle section, notice that there are five white dots. There are five pages of information that you can access by swiping that middle section.

This is the second page of the middle section, which shows you a list of indexes. You can learn what each index means by clicking on the blue question mark in the blue circle, but in this screen shot you can see that the tornado impact is a 4 out of 10.

The next page is more data about shear and freezing level and several other indices.

The next page tells you probability of hail and approximate size as well as several other indices.

Sorry, but I'm missing a photo of the last page.

If you notice the colored, shaded areas along the coast, those are different weather alerts for the coastal area depicted. If you click on the purple one just south of Talahasee this box pops up which shows you that the area is under a Gale Warning.


 The blue pie-shaped markers are for Hail threat. The blue markers also have all five pages in the center black area.

The green pie-shaped markers are for strong thunderstorms. They also have all five pages of data in the middle black section.

If you touch the white area (from the winter storm Jonas yesterday),
it will bring up a Winter Storm Warning.

If you touch anywhere in the bottom section of the main screen where the local forecast is, it will open to a full window. At the top it lists all the basic info like temp and wind speed and humidity, pressure, etc. If you go down to the middle of the page where it says Daily|Hourly it lists the forecast for the next 10 days. If you look to the right you will see three icons. The first is the list view currently displayed.

If you click on the middle icon it brings up the graph view. In the graph view you can touch and slide the line with the temps along the graph line. If you go to the hourly, you can touch and slide the hours of the day across and the graph below will reflect the hours visible on the screen at the time.

 The third icon brings up the forecast discussion. This is the information that we used to go to the Deep Weather app to find. We really like the discussion because it gives you a chance to hear if there's any uncertainty in the forecast.

 If you go back to the list view, you will see on the far right a plus sign. If you click on that plus sign it will expand each day to give the basic forecast for that day.

 Back on the main screen, in the bottom left hand corner you can see a little icon with a ruler and pencil. If you click this icon and choose ruler, you can touch the screen and draw a line to a storm cell from your location or measure anything else you want. On this screen shot you can see that it was 128 miles from my location to the tornadic storm cell. If you choose the pencil you can write notes on the screen, something that might come in handy if you were doing a screen print to print on a blog or Facebook page.  

 In the lower right hand corner you can see the drop down menu for the windstream. You can choose surface or jet stream. 

You can also choose to see the severe outlooks for today, tomorrow, or three days away in the drop down menu in the bottom right corner. 

 If you choose Wind Speed on the layers menu, it will disable the radar and give you t his screen instead. At the top it has the wind speed color gauge and each of the moving specks of color correspond to the key.

It also has water temperature as a layer possibility, which also disables the radar and gives you this screen corresponding to the key at the top.

Weather Underground absolutely nailed it on this one. The developers deserve a huge attaboy. Hope you find it as useful as we have so far. There are a bunch more layers to play with in the layers menu, so have at it and if you happen on any neat features that you find useful or that we missed, please leave a comment. Have fun!


Deb said...

One thing I forgot to mention and one thing a reader pointed out.

1. You can pay $1.99 to get rid of the ads for a year. This is a terrific bargain as it frees up much more screen space.

2. You can order a Boating Subscription for $.99 per month that includes marine charts, tides, buoy observations and coastal/offshore forecasts.

Patricia said...

SV Dos Libras mentioned this a while ago so I installed it but have just been using it at face value which even at that made it a great app. Now, due to your great review of functions, I can really use this in the way it was meant to be. Thanks!

Robert Sapp said...

Two questions. First, I like PredictWind's ability to do departure and route planning. You tell it where you want to go, and it tells you which day is the best to leave on and what course to sail based on predicted weather, and provides information on things like what percentage of time will be upwind, on a beam reach, or downwind. Does this offer anything similar, or does it just provide weather data and leave the interpretation entirely up to you? Second, do you know if it provides this level of detail for the Caribbean as well, or only for the mainland US?

Rhonda & Robert
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

Robert Salnick said...

Got it just now - nice! I also have Sailflow, so I will be comparing the two

Deb said...

@Robert Sapp - no weather routing that I've found but then we didn't use the paid version of Predict Wind and always interpret our own weather so we wouldn't miss that. They do have. $.99 per month boating subscription that I didn't see till someone else pointed it out that allows you to overlay the weather over marine charts, something we've wanted for a long time. On the Caribbean, not sure. We have friends in Tortola that I think are going to try it and let me know.

SailFarLiveFree said...

Love this app, thanks for pointing it out! We typically use SailFlow and MyRadar, but I like the integration and display of Storm better. And there's so much data (more than I know how to interpret). The surface wind display is excellent.

Deb said...

More things found. If you switch to regular radar instead of the Global radar, it has the option of seeing both past radar and future radar.

Also, if you have more than one location loaded, it keeps them on tabs at the top of the screen so you can switch between them easily.