May 6, 2014

Review: Radarscope

Warning: weather geekery below.

I first heard about RadarScope when I went to the National Weather Service's Spotter class a couple months ago. It was mentioned almost as an aside by the instructor - for those who wanted more and/or better radar info, particularly for mobile spotting/chasing.

It's an app available for Android, iOS, and MacOS... and their site is not terribly informative. A few screen shots, some buzzwords, but not a lot of meat. Not particularly encouraging, and the app is ten bucks. No, not a lot in the scheme of things, but ten bucks on an unknown is... well, a bit of a gamble.

Before we went chasing a couple weeks ago, I decided to bite the bullet and get the app. I figured if a meteorologist from NOAA/NWS had recommended it, there must be something to it.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Fingertip panning, standard pinch-to-zoom, access to most weather radars in the country, and a lot of the features you won't see on your local news.

Most of us are used to the standard weather radar, showing reflectivity (precipitation) and the standard color scale:

How about the same image, but available in hi-res:

When you're looking at hazardous weather, being able to see finer details matters.

Other imaging info available includes "HCA", or "Hydrometeor classification". In English, "what's actually falling". Tap-and-hold on the scale on the bottom shows what each color signifies (and this works in all modes). This shows graupel/gropple as a pinkish tan:

A simple tap on the "sweep" icon changes the map from radar sites to city names, and back:

(That image, by the by, is "storm base velocity". Green indicates flow towards the radar site and red is moving away from the radar site. This is particularly useful for identifying rotation...)

Storm warnings are shown in yellow, tornado warnings are shown in red, and flood warnings are green. The little red number-in-an-oval in the top right indicates the total number of watches/warnings across the country. This is unedited, straight from the iPhone. Radarscope will draw the predicted storm path (white line), outline warning areas, and so forth. Below is a classic example of a tornado "hook echo" near Knoxville, TN on 4/29/14:

And here's the storm base velocity for the same storm. See the little swirl-blob just northeast of Rockford? That's the vortex signature; the change in coloring (to red) shows there is "something" moving against the flow of everything else.

Other radar modes (that I haven't taken screen caps of) include rainfall totals, Vertical Integrated Liquid (another chaser favorite; great for identifying hail cores), Echo Tops (how tall is the storm?), and some dual-polarization stuff that I don't pretend to understand yet.

Location services work beautifully and will automagically select the closest radar, and will even show a triangle depicting what your approximate field of view is:

Data usage is VERY frugal - a solid day of chasing and constantly referring to the radar for storm info only used about 40MB of data.

If you're a weather geek, or spotter, or chaser, this is absolutely worth having on your mobile device. Yes, it's one of the more expensive things in the app store, but honestly? Ten bucks is a couple of mocha-frappa-froo-froos, or a box of 5.56.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Thanks, adding it... :-)