Weather Apps for Adventurers

Wind speed over Greenland. Is a rip-roaring piteraq storm on the way? Photo: windy.com

If you’re researching typical weather conditions for your next adventure, or are lucky enough to have internet access in the field, new, interactive weather apps can give you the precise status on everything from wave heights to wind speed to snow depth. The best thing is that they are free! These sites use animated graphics overlaid on maps to display an intuitively clear overview.

One of the best is windy.com, which also features mobile apps for both iOS and Android. The brain-child of Czech multi-millionaire Ivo Lukakovic, Windy draws from a range of globally recognized weather prediction models and allows you to view both current and future conditions anywhere in the world.


Live temperature overlay from Southern Patagonia. Click on the top right tab to display different data overlays. Embed: windy.com

With a simple selection tool, you can cycle between wind, rain, lightning, temperature, cloud cover, wave height and over 20 other categories. Color-coded heat maps show red spots in hotter areas or in places with high winds or heavy rain, while blue zones are cool, dry and calm. Pretty simple, eh?! Animated particles represent the direction of wind, waves and currents, and rulers at the bottom of the map show reported wind speed, temperature, air pressure and forecasted weather. Clicking on a point on the map brings up other layers of information, such as the altitude at which the temperature dips below 0C.

Ocean currents in the Atlantic, guaranteed to get ocean rowers salivating. Photo: windy.com

Scrolling along the bottom of the screen moves the view from real time to up to 10 days in advance. Users can also set-up email alerts for specific conditions, such as waves above 3 meters: Surf’s up, dude — let’s hit the beach!


Hurricane Willa, currently raging off the west coast of Mexico as of October 23, 2018. Source: Windy.com

Windy is such a powerful tool that millions of users flock to it during severe weather. Ruben Lenten—one of the best kiteboarders in the world, even uses it to scope out the best kiting spots.

Just one downside: There does not seem to be a way to view historical data, so you won’t be able to get a good sense of what to expect in some unfamiliar destination next January by viewing previous January conditions.

A second, similar service, VentuSky.com, is coincidentally also based in the Czech Republic. As with Windy, VentuSky provides real-time and 10-day advance information using animated particles to depict density and direction of weather features, which is overlaid alongside heat mapping. Also like Windy, iOS and Android apps are available. VentuSky uses slightly different climate models, and it allows such nuanced choices as the height of wind speed measurements, for example, 10m, 100m or 250m above the ground.

The animated wave overlay on VentuSky. Photo: Ventusky.com

In other ways, VentuSky has fewer options than Windy, with only 10 overlays available, including the mainstays of temperature, windspeed and rainfall. There also isn’t the ability to set email alerts, and you can’t view webcam pictures or  forecasted weather markers, as on Windy. It does, however, provide historical data, so shines for pre-expedition research. This historical view is one click away, on the tab that crosses the bottom of the window.

ExWeb owner Rowan faces a gentle breeze of 7 kph in his home city of Osaka. Photo: Ventusky.com

You don’t need to be a computer whiz to learn how to use either site. They’re completely intuitive. It took me less than five minutes to change overlays, pull up forecast data and switch between different data streams, such as from the Global Forecast System to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

These two are the most popular but they aren’t the only weather visualization tools. Meteoearth.com and Openweathermap.org give similar, though less powerful, services. MeteoEarth has 6 only overlays and 24 hour forecasting capabilities, and OpenWeatherMap has 5 overlays and no forecasting options or data animation.

Many more sites will likely appear in future, as a creative coder with access to climate model data (via an API key, which allows smart guys to tap into and siphon off the weather data) could set up a service in a relatively short time.

MeteoEarth.com in precipitation mode. Photo: meteoearth.com

OpenWeatherMap.com in wind speed mode. The main drawback with this site is that it lacks both forecasting options and real-time animation. Photo: openweathermap.com

Here at ExWeb, we’d love to hear your experiences with Windy or VentuSky, good or bad, in the comments section below.


Links and Acknowledgements

Thanks to Tedde de Boer for information on Windy.com

www.windy.com

www.ventusky.com

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer with a PhD in Exercise Science. He lives in the UK and has also written for Rock and Ice, Outside, UK Climbing etc. He recently led a 634km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia. See more at www.ashrouten.com.

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