iPad Apps: Best App for Weather Watching

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Q: I'm an iPad owner that is overwhelmed by the number of applications available. Where should I start if I'm looking for a good way to track changes in the weather?

id364884105_artwork.jpgWUNDERMAP

Free | Version: 1.1 | Weather Underground

Friend, you know who you are: a weather geek, and darn proud of it. This app's for you. The basics are here, of course: pop-up boxes with info on current conditions and detailed forecasts. But it's the world-wide network of volunteer field agents that's turned this service into a weather wonk favorite. From nearly 15,000 of these worldwide monitors, you get instant updates on everything from dew point to wind gusts. This community-powered meteorology rides side saddle to a more traditional set of offerings like radar and satellite shots of cloud coverage. Combine all that with breaking alerts and forecasts and you've got yourself enough info to man the meteorological mic yourself.

MAP FEST: The Layers button lets you add a handful of special purpose map visuals -- things like precipitation, clouds, and, for disaster-philes, "Severe weather." Flick this last one on and, if Mommy Nature's brewing trouble, you'll see a patchwork of orange (fire weather warning), yellow (severe thunderstorm), green (flood), or pink (heat advisory). A regular 10 plagues roundup.

PICK A PIC: Turn on the Webcams option in the More button and your map is now dotted with photos from the field, also supplied by the volunteer weather stations -- a nifty way to flesh out a picture of what's happening. These pix get updated on a more or less minute-by-minute basis. One final app-only bonus worth mentioning: it's blessedly free of the website's ad clutter.

HONORABLE MENTION: WEATHERSTATION FREE

Free | Version: 2.0 | Bigsool SARL

Those of us with an easily satisfied weather report jones will likely appreciate this straight-to-the-point information designer's dream screen. It's definitely not meant or those who crave lots of details or travelers who need to track multiple spots in one day (you can track only one spot at a time and switching requires a slightly clunky pinch and pan gesture). But boy howdy is the key info here easy to digest. Chunked into quickly distinguishable main sections (Current, Today, Tonight, Forecast), this one-pager spotlights everything that weather-following civilians are likely to care about.

WHAT YOU GET: Temperature, of course, but also useful tidbits like chance of rain and a NOAA-powered prediction of whether clouds, sun, or some combo awaits. It's like a Presidential Daily Briefing for those who need to know what's happening outside, but don't have time for details. Location-changing requires you to move around a Google map to pick a new spot.

GREEN SCREEN: The "Change theme" pop-up menu makes it easy to try out any of the dozen different background colors. Alien is fun when you're trying to keep cool, Pinky lends some romance to your weather report, and Digital Watch is a sober palette for those who share space with the boss.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

Excerpted from Peter Meyers' Best iPad Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders. Copyright 2010 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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