Control Weather With Your Smartphone

December 15, 2016 12:00 PM
Control Weather With Your Smartphone

Do you find weather and climate confounding? Maybe it’s time to go on a journey with Eric Holthaus.
“To say that understanding the interactions between daily weather and our record-setting climate in real time is difficult is a huge understatement,” says Holthaus, a meteorologist for Slate magazine. “As a member of a profession that relies ... on reliable data and pattern recognition, I can safely say that being a meteorologist these days is weird.”

Holthaus shares free weather and climate reporting on his blog, “Science by Eric Holthaus.” For those wanting a deeper understanding of weather and climate, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to free or low-cost digital resources.

In fact, there are so many resources available they can be a bit cumbersome to access. Eric Snodgrass, director of undergraduate studies with the department of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois, decided to do something about it.

“I put together a website so people can find weather info in one spot that’s easily digestible,” Snodgrass says. At he provides access to a barrage of precipitation, rainfall and satellite maps. Severe weather outlooks, temperature and precipitation forecasts and much more appear on this one-stop weather resource.

Snodgrass also is co-founder of Agrible, Inc., a farm data analytics company. Several of Agrible’s weather-related resources are free, including posting a weekly weather video each Monday morning at

“Our goal is to take weather data and turn it into actionable items,” he says. I’m up before dawn every Monday morning to record the Morning Farm Report so farmers can see how weather is impacting agriculture in the U.S. and Brazil.”

Apps Aplenty. For farmers and ranchers on the go, the smartphone has emerged as a rich refuge for weather apps. Which is best?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is “it depends,” Snodgrass says. One way to find the best tools is to ask for a personal recommendation. Snodgrass suggests Weather Underground for two reasons.

“First, I think they do an exceptionally good job of interpreting the data,” Snodgrass says. “Also, its parent company is IBM, which has invested a tremendous amount of money and talent toward weather.”

Another app Snodgrass recommends is RadarScope. It’s not free, but for $10 it’s still a bargain, 
he points out.

“Every farmer should have a great radar app on their phone,” he says. “This app tracks every single thing you can possibly track with radar, such as precipitation, hail and wind, at a high resolution.”

With a constant stream of new digital weather tools constantly coming online, a person might argue the old, reliable local TV weather forecaster is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Snodgrass says he’s amazed how many farmers have become bona fide “weather geeks” over the past decade.

“There are some great TV meteorologists out there, but they only have four minutes to deliver the forecasts,” he says. “Farmers want more, and the way they are getting it is changing rapidly.”

Find reviews of weather apps along with links to download them using the AgWeb App Finder. To learn more, visit

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