With more than 40 inches of snowfall so far this winter, and another snowstorm likely to arrive on Thursday, this has been an exceptionally cold and snowy New York winter. Here are five weather apps that will help you know when to pack your umbrella, how many layers to pile on, and when to finally break out the sunscreen. Sadly, none of these will help you get your car out of the icy prison of a hardpacked, frozen and refrozen snow berm.
Available for: iPhone
If you want to hold the world in the palm of your hand, consider coughing over $2.99 for this iPhone weather app, which allows you to look at a 3-D image of earth anytime you’d like for merely a fraction of cost of a Virgin Galactic flight. It’s not quite as good as watching Gravity, but Living Earth is a pretty unbelievable app from a design standpoint. This is not just a pretty piece of technology, however. Users can view global weather patterns, including cloud movement, wind, humidity and temperature, in real time from any point on the planet. Use your finger to spin the globe on its invisible axis to see current weather conditions across the world, and then select a city for a more detailed outlook. The daily/hourly forecast breakdown is a similar interface to Apple’s current app, making it easy for users to assimilate info, but Living Earth outdoes Apple in that it also lets you track tropical storms and set an alarm clock, making it pretty much an amateur meteorologist’s best friend.
The Weather Channel
Available for: iPhone, Blackberry, Windows, Android, iPad, Kindle Fire
This is the perfect app for someone who wants a little more detail in their digital forecast than the weather app that comes standard on an iPhone, without too many bells and whistles, and for free. The Weather Channel app allows you to save multiple cities, and look at hourly, 36-hour and 10-day forecasts, and includes weather radar maps. You can also set severe weather and high pollen notifications so you’ll know when to cancel plans or pop the allergy meds. There’s also Weather Channel content you can watch on your phone or tablet–videos advising how to fight cabin fever, explaining the “Pineapple Express” and profiling researchers dealing with -100-degree weather in Antarctica.
Available for: iPhone, Android
This is quite possibly the most useless weather app out there, but it does bring some levity to the forecast, which we could all use just about now. Weather Whiskers offers you the current temperature and general weather, delivered by cats wearing mustaches, raincoats and pajamas, carrying umbrellas and sun hats, as conditions warrant. It’s not particularly informative, but it is a welcome distraction from dreary weather.
Available for: all SMS-enabled phones, or via email
Poncho combines cute and useful, while keeping the forecast simple. It’s not a weather app–you sign up and provide a few basic bits of information: your zip code, what time you wake up, how you commute, whether you have pets to take out, whether you need alternate side parking updates and if you have pollen allergies, and then Poncho sends you a brief text message each morning, all in the voice of a friendly, hoodie-wearing cat. Recent text: “Listen, it’s the weekend. Temps are in the high 20s. You should bundle up and brunch.” Bonus: You can set what time it texts you in the a.m. and use that as your alarm.
Available for: iPhone, Android, Tablets, Desktops
In theory, you do not need to know the exact time of each day’s highs and lows, the percent humidity, and the dew point, whatever that is, but Forecast makes it easy to digest more weather information than you actually need. The responsive app–which you access on your browser and then save to your smartphone screen–presents more detailed information about the next seven days of snow, clouds, and slush than your typical weather app. Its beauty lies in the way it visualizes all of these predictions. The minimalist, expandable details give you precise descriptions (“partly cloudy starting in the afternoon”), simple animated icons, and a scrollable timeline that shows you exactly the hours the skies will be clear, when it will lightly snow, then morph into heavy snow, and how many inches to expect. The problem is, Forecast has not called the last two winter storms accurately, predicting way less snow on Feb. 3 than we got, and far more than actually accumulated on Feb. 6. So their data isn’t always spot on (and as such we were wary of plunking down $3.99 for their original app, Dark Sky). But Forecast is still a good baseline for planning out your week. While The Weather Channel app only warns that there is a “potential for significant snow accumulation” this Thursday, Forecast was calling five to seven inches as of this morning. And on a desktop or tablet, you can even search past weather and far into the future, like say, the day of your outdoor wedding, with a cool tool called “Time Machine.”