If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the weather in the northeastern US after several years living in sunny California, it’s that weather conditions can change on a dime and ruin your plans with little notice, even in the summer. Fortunately, there are creative developers like Jackadam who are willing to help you maximize your time outdoors and avoid surprises from Mother Nature with Dark Sky for the iPhone and iPad.
Dark Sky promises more precise “minute-to-minute” predictions based on your location with a focus on the next hour to give meaningful short-term information to help you plan your outdoor activities. The app evaluates raw weather radar data and reprocesses it to remove the noise and give more accurate weather predictions. You can read more about how Dark Sky’s predicts weather in this blog post written by its developers.
I tested Dark Sky on a day when rain was expected to see how closely it would track the rain heading my way. Here’s the sequence of screen shots as I tracked the arrival of the brief storm.
At first, Dark Sky told me light rain would start in 25 minutes, then it revised prediction just five minutes later to say that is was now sprinkling and that rain would start in earnest in 20 minutes and last for 30 minutes. At that moment, I didn’t see any sprinkles but there were ominous clouds around and it was clear that it was going to rain.
It actually began to rain about 15 minutes later and this is what Dark Sky showed me then:
The rain did indeed continue for about 20 minutes and then stopped. A test on another day when rain was expected yielded a similar experience where Dark Sky predicted incoming weather within a 25-minute window with minor changes as time passed.
Predicting the exact start and stop times of any weather event is impossible to do perfectly but Dark Sky seems to be reasonably good in giving you a heads up about incoming inclement weather. However, it is missing a feature that would be key for me to keep Dark Sky on my iPhone: the ability to get push notifications to notify me of incoming rain.
For example, I like to walk my dog in the evening after work but sometimes other tasks get in the way and I don’t get to this until later than planned. Occasionally, rain cancels the walk entirely when I finally grab his leash and get ready to head out. (Before you suggest it, dragging a 125 lb Great Dane who hates water on a walk through the rain is incredibly difficult and entirely unpleasant for all involved.) If I’d known rain was coming in the next hour or so, chances are that I’d drop what I was doing and take the dog out right away to beat the rain.
Of course, some parameters around these alerts would be useful since I wouldn’t want or need to be notified every time it’s going to rain. A simple switch in the app to turn on a single notification to let me know of any upcoming rain one hour before it hits within the next four hours would be perfect for my use.
Dark Sky was borne out of Kickstarter, reaching its funding level in November 2011 and debuting in the App Store in April. It’s is a universal app for both the iPhone and iPad and costs $3.99. It works only in the US at this time since it uses information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an American federal agency that monitors the oceans and atmosphere. If you’re in the US, it’s worth a buy to keep closer tabs on the weather as the summer vacation season winds down.