LIKE it or not, winter is coming. Apart from layering up, you can turn to your phone to help you brave the rain, wind or snow ahead.
Weather apps are abundant in mobile app stores, and my new favorite is Fire + Rain. Unlike many other weather apps, it keeps weather data simple.
Built on information from the Weather Channel, the app’s display is streamlined and easy to understand. The screen’s color corresponds with the forecast, and the temperature is displayed in large type. Alongside this are a small icon and a simple phrase describing the weather, like “light rain” or “cloudy with showers.”
You get, at a glance, everything you need to know about the coming weather where you are. Swipe down the screen to see hourly and daily forecasts; tap to swap between a 36-hour detailed forecast and a two-week forecast. If you see the words “heavy snow” in tomorrow morning’s forecast, you’ll know to make the necessary preparations tonight. Fire + Rain is free on iOS.
For people who like detailed weather forecasts, there is RainAware. This app belongs to the new breed of weather apps that try to deliver extremely accurate weather data based on the time and your precise location. The app uses GPS to detect where you are, and then it pulls forecast data from its system, including detailed radar scans.
Instead of the typical approximation other weather apps might offer, like “50 percent chance of storms,” RainAware has concrete alerts, like “It’s going to rain in 30 minutes.” The app’s radar maps are also neat: They show how rain clouds are moving near you and predict where they will go next, so you can see how the weather is going to change.
RainAware has a lot of features, including a weather clock showing the forecast in 15-minute increments, so it may take some getting used to. But it’s an excellent option. It costs $ 5 on iOS and $ 4 on Android.
Another app, Storm Radar from Weather Underground, is a source that television weather forecasters consult before they step in front of the camera. This weather app has high-resolution radar maps and storm-tracking algorithms to figure out if you are in the path of a nearby weather event. It even has lightning alerts for a 100-mile radius around your location.
Data on variables like dew point and humidity can be viewed as colored patterns on a map, or as graphs or charts. You can also get highly localized weather alerts — for example, the app told me there were two “coastal event” alerts as high winds and high tides threatened the seafront zone near my home. If you prefer a text-based forecast, Storm Radar offers that too.
There is a lot to discover in this app, and if you plan to use it you may need to spend some time on Google to get a full understanding of what all the data means. But it is free on iOS, and its interface is both attractive and easy to interact with.
MeteoEarth, another scientific weather forecast app, shows animated maps that contain a wealth of forecasting information for your location. The maps can show data on rainfall, wind, temperature and pressure, and can even track tropical storms. The app also offers access to live weather webcams around the world that give a sense of the conditions in a particular location. MeteoEarth takes some figuring out, but its slick graphical interface is satisfying to use. It’s free on iOS and Android.
Lastly, it may be worth keeping the free FEMA app (iOS, Android) on your phone in case your home is subjected to the worst of the winter weather. In addition to an alert system from the National Weather Service, the app offers guidance about what to do before, during and after a disaster.
The naturalist Sir David Attenborough has been making television programs about the wonders of life for 60 years, and now over 1,000 clips from his body of work are available in a new app: Attenborough’s Story of Life (free on iOS, Android). Browse it with your children and enjoy learning about nature from the soothing voice of Sir David himself.