Friday Favorite: RadarScope for iOS provides detailed weather insight

TUAW fans know that I'm a big weather fanatic, and my home state -- Colorado -- offers a wide range of weather conditions to keep residents on their toes. One app that has become a favorite of mine very quickly is RadarScope (US$9.99).

The app was created by Base Velocity LLC, which also offers the RadarScope TV app ($499.99) for TV meteorologists to use for professional broadcast use. RadarScope is definitely aimed at a much broader audience, but does a lot of the same things that its professional counterpart does.

RadarScope is described as "a specialized display utility for weather enthusiasts and meteorologists that allows you to view NEXRAD Level 3 and super-resolution radar data along with Tornado, Severe Thunderstorm, Flash Flood Warnings and predicted storm tracks issued by the National Weather Service."


The app has been getting a workout over the past week, since the state has seen tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flash floods in just a handful of days! The information that is viewable on-screen on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch include reflectivity, velocity, dual-polarization and other products from the Next-Generation Radar (NEXRAD) or TDWR (Terminal Doppler Weather Radar) sites in the US, Guam and Puerto Rico.

RadarScope provides a list of weather alerts for the entire US in a notification bubble on the screen; I wish that there was a setting for limiting that to just a state or region. When launched for the first time, the app displays a full US map; one can either tap on the familiar Location Services button in the lower-left corner of the display, or manually tap and drag to center the display on your locale.

You then select local NEXRAD sites; in my state, there are two that cover the region in which I live (KFTG, KPUX) as well as a TDWR site at Denver International Airport. The initial display shows the popular "SuperRes Reflectivity" Doppler Radar product, which can be extremely useful in determining where severe weather is likely to occur. During a series of storms last weekend, I was able to see the classic "hook echo" of two tornadoes that touched down in other parts of the Colorado Front Range. Last night, we had strong storms that brought torrential rains to the Denver area, and I was able to tell from several of the radar products provided by RadarScope that my neighborhood was going to be spared from the flash flooding that occurred elsewhere.

To see how weather is developing, you can tap a play button (also in the lower-left corner of the screen) to show an animation of the last six images from the NEXRAD site. Warnings for any severe weather are outlined on the map -- red for tornado warnings, yellow for severe thunderstorms and green for flash floods. One of my favorite features for showing details to others (my long-suffering wife, since the cat doesn't care...) is the annotation pencil. Need to point out something? Just draw a light blue line or arrow on the image with your finger.

Another handy tool found on the radar selection bar near the top of the screen provides a measuring tool. This was useful during last weekend's tornadoes, when I was measuring just how far the storm tracks were from major population centers.

In addition to the NOAA weather products, RadarScope also offers content from iMapWeather. Subscribers to AllisonHouse severe weather products can also log into their accounts to view those products. If you're a member of Spotter Network, you can log into the app to report your location and see where other spotters are currently stationed.

For those who are interested in learning more about how to read NEXRAD images, there are a number of websites that provide detailed information on how to decipher what you're viewing. Advanced amateur meteorologists, storm spotters and weather buffs alike can find a lot to like about RadarScope.