31
Aug
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Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

With the Atlantic hurricane season ratcheting up and several named storms expected to form before the season ends on Nov. 30th, it makes sense for those of us in potential hurricane zones to look for an app that will help keep an eye on developing tropical systems. For example, Hurricane Danielle has dissipated in the North Atlantic, but Earl is expected to hit the East Coast before the end of the week and Fiona is hot on its heels.

Several applications are available through the Android Marketplace with varying degrees of usefulness. All of them rely on public domain information from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Hurricane Center (NHC), but how they put it together makes a big difference.

Let's take a look.

Hurricane Hub

Basic Info

Current Version: 1.0

Price: Free

Developer: News-Press Media Group

Website: http://www.news-press.net/mediagroup/

Market URL:

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.gannett.hurricanehub

Review

Developed by News-Press Media, parent company of The News-Press newspaper in Fort Meyers, Fla., Hurricane Hub is a comprehensive hurricane information portal with everything from NOAA forecasts, current storm maps, eye-witness reports and general hurricane information and trivia to tips for riding out a storm, donating or volunteering in relief efforts and tools for reconnecting family members after a storm. Tracking maps are one of the biggest draws for any hurricane app, and Hurricane Hub does a good job here, offering quick access to an overview map of active storms, computer models of projected paths from different agencies via SkeetobiteWeather.com, three- and five-day cones for active storms from NOAA, and satellite imagery of different ocean basins from Weather Underground.

Hurricane Hub does a good job of pulling together a very wide range of information, but at a cost. The free app is a whopping 10,217 kb download. It also has a serious interface flaw in that when the phone is rotated to the landscape position, the UI stays arranged as if for a portrait orientation. Also, some of the information is presented in light gray text on a white background, which could make it hard to see on some device or with some eyes. The app is advertising supported, but instead of Ad Mob network banners, the only ad on the app is a splash screen from Storm Smart Industries.

hurricanehub1 hurricanehub2 hurricanehub3 hurricanehub4

Hurricane Hound Free

Basic Info

Current Version: 1.1

Price: Free (Paid Version Planned)

Developer: STKI Concepts

Website: http://www.stkiconcepts.com/hurricaneHound

Market URL:

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.stkiconcepts.hurricaneHound.free

Review

Hurricane Hound is nicely done mashup of Google Maps with NOAA data. Either the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific basin can be displayed, or both can be shown on the same map. Three- and five-day tracking cones for active storms are displayed, along with any hurricane watches or warnings.

Tap on the storm’s name, and it provides current position and strength information, as well as position and distance relative to the user’s current location (if that option is enabled). Details about watches and warnings can be accessed through the menu. Zooming can be done with pinch moves or via on-screen buttons.

The free version of the 134 kb app is supported by unobtrusive ad banners at the top of the page. One possible point of confusion for users is that if the satellite view option is enabled, it is the default Google Maps satellite layer that is displayed, not live satellite imagery. The settings screen warns users of that when giving the option to turn on the satellite layer (the plain maps layer is the default display), but it could be overlooked.

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Hurricane Watch

Basic Info

Current Version: 1.0

Price: Free

Developer: Android Dogware

Website: http://www.androiddogware.com/home/hurricane

Market URL:

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.hurricane

Review

A much more scaled down app, Hurricane Watch provides the NOAA active storms maps. Either the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific basin can be shown, and it is only the active storms map — no tracking cones or path projections. The size of the icons used to switch between basins, to link to NOAA or for help all seem too large in proportion to the map, and when the device is rotated, the ad banner forces the map to resize so that it is even smaller in landscape orientation than in portrait orientation. Zooming in on the map is only possible if you go to the NOAA site and zoom in within your browser. Still, at 65 kb, it’s a much lighter download than Hurricane Hub.

hurricanewatch1 hurricanewatch2

Mothras Storms

Basic Info

Current Version: 2.1

Price: Free

Developer: Timothy Collins

Website: none active

Market URL:

QR code for market://search?q=pname:Mothras_storms.v1

Review

At 13 kb, it’s just a quick-and-dirty display of the current tropical cyclone activity from NOAA. You can choose among overview or satellite maps for each ocean basin, as well as a U.S. weather map, and a tap on the map will give a rundown of the latest National Hurricane Center outlooks. The maps are only shown in portrait orientation (and are a little distorted), but it’s easier to read than the small maps offered in Hurricane Watch.

mothrasstorms1 mothrasstorms2

Hurricane Tracker

Basic Info

Current Version: 1.9

Price: $1.99

Free Version? No

Developer: JTWebfusion

Website: http://sites.google.com/site/jtwebfusion/

Market URL:

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.jtwebfusion.android.hurricanetracker

Review

Hurricane Tracker aims to provide quick access to the latest NOAA/NHC reports in English and Spanish. It also provides access to multiple satellite images from NOAA, GDES and other government agencies. The interface is a little wonky in that the initial startup screen offers just a list of feeds (the default is to the English feed for the Atlantic basin). You have to click on menu to switch to satellite images or to other feeds. All of the information is available through public websites, but Hurricane Tracker does make it easy to access that data through a single app.

hurricanetracker1 hurricanetracker2 hurricanetracker3

Storm Chaser Hurricane Outlook

Basic Info

Version 1.1

Price: $1.99

Free Version? No

Developer: Mike Brady

Website: http://chasercentral.com/

Market URL:

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.SpotterOutlook2

Review

As the app description promises, it provides big buttons for quick access to NHC satellite maps for the Atlantic, Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific basins. It also offers a link to live “storm chaser” video from ChaserTV. Everything is a link to a website, firing up the user’s preferred browser ... which means you’re essentially paying $1.99 for a set of bookmarks.

stormchaserhurricane1 stormchaserhurricane2

YWN Tropical Update

Basic Info

Current Version: 1.0

Price: Free

Developer: IPS MeteoStar

Website: http://www.yourweathernetwork.com/

Market URL:

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.meteostar.ywn

Review

According to its description in the Market, YWN Tropical Update offers twice daily video weather forecasts about tropical cyclone activity worldwide; however, the website is 404 and no videos appear in the app despite two current Atlantic hurricanes on Aug. 30.

ywntropical

Hurricane Wallpaper - Atlantic & Pacific

Basic Info

Current Version: 1.0

Price: 99¢ Each

Free Version? No

Developer: Imobile Systems Inc.

Website: http://www.imobilesystems.com/

Market URL (Atlantic):

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.imobilesystems.hurricanewallpaper

Market URL (Pacific):

QR code for market://search?q=pname:com.imobilesystems.hurricanewallpaper.pacific

Review

Both applications simply reset your wallpaper to the current NHC active tropical cyclone map. You can only have one wallpaper set at a time, thus separate apps for each basin. On my HTC Hero (running Android 2.1 on Credo Wireless), the maps did not scale properly to the screen, giving me a closeup of Hurricane Danielle and some surrounding water, but that was it for the Atlantic version; the Pacific was no better. Assuming the map scaling works on other phones, and you have a clear bit of screen to see the wallpaper, it could be handy for a quick look at tropical cyclone activity... but it’s probably just as easy to launch an app.

hurricanewallpaperatlantic hurricanewallpaperpacific

Conclusions

All in all, the current crop of hurricane apps for Android each repurposes government data to provide an overview of tropical weather systems. How they do it, and at what cost, is the big difference.

Hands down, Hurricane Hub is the most comprehensive app available for storm watchers; however it takes up a lot of memory space and not everyone will need the full range of tips and post-storm aid suggestions it includes.

Hurricane Hound Free does a very good job of displaying projected storm paths and linking to additional information within a compact application.

For a quick look at just current storm activity, Mothras Storms provides a decent interface for NOAA data.

  • http://www.sillybandzwagon.com Opal Keithley

    Interesting observation about a not often addreses topic. It reminds me of a story my nephew had told me, I will be sure to send this on to him.