Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you…
Unless you’re one of those storm-chasing weirdos, spending more than a night or two camping in a torrential downpour is nobody’s idea of a good time. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has some terrific resources available to you to check weather patterns before you leave, but what happens when your smartphone drops out of range and you’re in solid ‘No Service’ territory?
The BoM’s website has loads of data, although this can be difficult to wade through to get the information you need… and this is when using your computer. Try to navigate the BoM website on your phone and you are likely never to try again.
This lack of usability has created an opportunity for app makers to build their own user-friendly phone apps that make weather information much more accessible to the average punter. I compared three apps to the BoM information on a Saturday (27 August 2016) to see how well each could forecast the weather for the next few days of a theoretical Simpson Desert trip.
For images, videos and the full Unsealed 4X4 experience, read this in our online magazine.
This app takes the BoM data but also has its own meteorologists and computer modelling, which combined to provide a more accurate forecast for our test period. On Saturday, Weatherzone was predicting 20-40mm of rain for Birdsville on the following Thursday. This differed markedly from the BoM who only predicted 2-15mm for Thursday. The difference was surprising. As it turned out Weatherzone was the most accurate with its forecast in this test. The app is easy to use and has some nice graphical features for temperature and
rain over the next
The BoM data is sourced directly without any additional forecasting input so it reflects exactly what the BoM forecasts. It has a nice user interface although in-app purchases are required to unlock some of the more detailed features. The forecast accuracy was exactly the same as the BoM, which was mostly very good.
This app sources the BoM data and its information says that it fine-tunes the forecast data. I found the user interface OK but managed to miss how to get the forecast rain for Birdsville until Monday. At this stage, WillyWeather was forecasting 50-100mm for Thursday which was twice as much as the BoM and Weatherzone apps.
Which is best?
All three apps have different user interfaces that will appeal to different types of people. On the Apple app store, all three have four-and-a-half star ratings, although Weatherzone has 15 times more reviews than the next most popular of the three. For me, along with info from the BoM, Weatherzone would be my first choice app.
Just remember that these apps provide forecasts and, as such, they will not be 100% accurate. They are only tools to help your decision-making process; just as there are many other factors that need to be taken into account before heading off on your next 4X4 adventure.