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Dark Sky

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I recently ponied up $3.99 for the Dark Sky weather app on my iPhone after hearing rave reviews from birding buddies David La Puma and Jessie Barry.   It looks brilliant, boasting a super clean and elegant interface with the most important weather data easily accessed and beautifully summarized.  The animated precipitation maps are pure eye candy, far and away the cleanest-looking weather radar I’ve seen whether looking at the entire global picture or zooming in to your current city or county.  The app is powered by Forecast.io, an equally excellent (and free) web-based weather service I highly suggest bookmarking.  Both the app and web site use location services (i.e. your phone’s GPS & cell tower triangulation or your computer’s IP address registered location) to predict imminent precipitation at your exact position down to the minute.  You can set notifications on your phone if you want warning of impending rain, setting thresholds from any rain to heavy rain only (or leave it off.)

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Image courtesy of Dark Sky: http://darkskyapp.com

The app goes beyond just predicting approaching rain or snow, with the home screen summarizing current temperature, “feels like” temperature , sky conditions & temperature trend for your whereabouts along with the hour’s expected precipitation.  One tap on the map icon brings up Dark Sky’s signature precipitation and temperature maps (animated with a tap on the play button) that can be viewed from a global scale down to your local patch.  A tap on the home screen temperature button pulls up a virtual weather station for your location with wind speed & direction, humidity & dew point, atmospheric pressure and trend, and visibility.  A quick swipe to the second screen shows the 24-hour precipitation and temperature prediction trends and sunrise/sunset times.  A final swipe to the third screen has the week’s forecast summaries, with each day’s weather summarized by an icon and low/high temperature bar.  Tapping any day of the week brings up a more detailed hour-by-hour forecast for that day.

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Image courtesy of Dark Sky: http://darkskyapp.com

Having a handle on the weather is a key part of anyone’s birding endeavors, and I have a feeling that this will be the first app I’ll launch to inform my weather-based decisions.  Perhaps the only component I’d like to see added would be a map layer showing winds, like on this amazing Wind Map page.  For more features like current weather station reports, storm tracks, lightning strikes, severe weather alerts, front maps, etc. there will always be other apps in my weather folder (like Weather Underground, WX Alert USA, & Hi-Def Radar.)  The real beauty of this app is its uncluttered effectiveness and stunning visualizations, a textbook example of “less is more.”  It is hard for me to imagine a better way to spend four bucks  improving my app library.

dark-sky-weather-station

Image courtesy of Dark Sky: http://darkskyapp.com

Unfortunately, Android and other platform users are going to have to be patient in getting this one- for now and the foreseeable future Dark Sky is available only for iOS.

Any other killer weather apps with an eye particularly toward birding utility?  Leave ’em in the comments!

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Bill Schmoker

Bill Schmoker

Bill is known in the birding community as a leading digital photographer of birds. Since 2001 he has built a collection of digital bird photos documenting over 640 species of North American birds. His photography has appeared in international nature publications, books, newspapers, interpretive signs, web pages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as references for art works. Also a published writer, Bill wrote a chapter for Good Birders Don't Wear White, is a past Colorado/Wyoming regional editor for North American Birds and is proud to be on the Leica Birding Team. Bill is a Colorado eBird reviewer and is especially fond of his involvement with the ABA's Institute for Field Ornithology and Young Birder Programs. Bill is a popular birding guide, speaker, and workshop instructor, and teaches middle school science in Boulder, Colorado. When he isn’t birding he enjoys family time with his wife and son.
Bill Schmoker

Latest posts by Bill Schmoker (see all)

  • AdamStevens

    Weather Underground is an Android friendly ap, that also uses local weather watchers and small weather stations to boost accuracy.

  • Bryan Pfeiffer

    There’s only one problem with this weather app: It can’t predict the weather. I’ve been using it a few days. As I write, here in Montpelier, Vermont, where the sun is bright after a morning snowstorm, it’s telling me that it’s overcast and will be so the rest of the day. Oh, and it completely missed this morning’s snow blast. A few days ago, while it was snowing outside, the app told me that it was clear and that no precipitation was expected. So, Bill, with all due respect, I’ll disagree with you on this one. Moreover, the app is short on details compared to most of its kind, with low-resolution maps. Yeah, its simple layout and minimalist design look nice, but it’s not really that great as a weather app.

  • Ryan W.

    Radar Cast Elite (NOAA) is the best paid weather app.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/radar-cast-elite-noaa-hi-def/id601606659?mt=8
    It has the best HD radar loops, predicts out to 30 minutes, sends push notifications for rain from multiple locations (you can customize the time period you get alerts) and gives weather-based driving directions. I found it to be as accurate as any weather app can get, but nothing is perfect. I agree with Brian P’s post, but predicting weather in the mountains is near to impossible so I think it us a little too much to expect any weather app to excel in those environments.

    eWeather HD is a close second for paid apps. Accurate, feature rich and the weather clock feature is awesome.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/eweather-hd-weather-forecast/id401533966?mt=8

    Classic Weather is one of the best free (and paid) weather apps. If you like a clean & simple interface with the most important info right in front of you this is the way to go. I ended up liking it so much I got the paid version for the extra features.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/classicweather/id528581217?mt=8

    If you want eye candy that is actually accurate, functional and has a great alarm clock check out Living Earth.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/living-earth-clock-weather/id379869627?mt=8

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