The top 5 most useful weather apps for the Isles of Scilly
Knowing what the weather will be doing is a key factor in deciding if you’ll head out on the water. Whether that’s to hire a kayak or paddleboard for a paddling adventure - go sailing, windsurfing, or fishing.
I do spend a disproportionate amount of time every day checking various weather forecasts, mainly for wind speed and direction, but that comes with the territory when you run a business like mine. What I want in a forecast is one that’s as accurate as possible and easy to interpret. So, I thought I’d share my top 5 favourite weather apps and why I use them.
All weather forecasts are a combination of current data and mathematical models predicting the most likely outcome based on historical data. Data is obtained from a variety of sources including weather stations on land and at sea, satellite imagery, weather balloons and data from transatlantic flights. This information is then crunched several times a day using supercomputers.
It’s important to remember that any forecast will only be really accurate within 48 hours, any longer than that and its predictions really are just predictions albeit based on reliable algorithms. This is important when you live on the Isles of Scilly and the weather can change rapidly.
#1 - Met Office - free
This forecast gives you six days in advance and updates itself hourly. There are hour by hour predictions for the current day and the following day. After that the forecast is given in three hourly predictions.
The forecast shows you the sky state, percentage possibility of rain, wind speed, wind gusts and the wind direction in both words and visually as arrows. There is also an animated five-day rain forecast giving rainfall in mm/hour.
Scrolling down you will get the UV forecast, pollen count, air pollution (always low for Scilly!) and most usefully for me humidity levels and visibility. Anything below a moderate visibility will be an immediate cancellation of the day's hiring. I have found the humidity information on the Met Office app is very accurate.
All in all, this is an excellent app and the one I always check first!
#2 - Windfinder - free
Windfinder will give you a ten-day forecast with three-hourly predictions or you can select their super forecast which will give you hourly predictions for the next three days.
In the settings function you can choose how you want wind data to be shown – either as an arrow, direction or degrees and you can also change the units for all measurements. Usefully, this app will also show wind speed as a colour. Generally, for me, once it’s above green it will be too windy for hiring so I can tell at a glance if we’ll be able to hire.
The super forecast also shows percentage humidity (anything above 95% means that it could be too foggy for hiring) and wave heights and direction. This is very helpful when we get a big storm coming through. The next day the wind speed may have gone off but if we still have big wave heights then it won’t be safe to be out on the water.
This app will update every six hours but always shows the whole day’s forecast. There is so much useful additional information available including tidal data, moon state moon rise and setting time. It also gives daily sunrise/sunset information which includes nautical dawn, dawn, sunrise and the golden hour, sunset, dusk and night.
This is another excellent app with easy to interpret data and lots of additional information for the weather geek.
#3 - XC Weather - free
This weather app will provide a forecast for eight days with three-hourly predictions. There are also hourly predictions for up to three days in advance.
Wind speed is shown as an arrow for direction, with the wind speed and wind gusts. This information is also shown as a colour. On this app, blue and green wind speeds are fine but yellow, orange and red colours will mean no hiring.
The forecast shows temperature, rainfall amount and the state of the sky. There is no data about humidity (on the app) and it’s the least accurate forecast for poor visibility, often showing a sunny sky when we are bathed in fog!
This app is very easy to use and I check it regularly but it does tend to over exaggerate wind speeds more than three days in advance.
#4 - YR - free
This is a Norwegian forecast from NRK, Meteorologisk instituut.
What I love most about this forecast is the graphics it provides for the forecast. It shows the sky so you can see if it will be sunny, cloudy or raining.
If you scroll to the left, it will show an hourly forecast including temperature, what the temperature feels like, whether it will rain and the sunrise and sunset time for the hour when it happens.
Wind speed is shown as a figure, an arrow showing direction as well as in words e.g. moderate breeze from west. The forecast for three days in advance is shown like this. It is possible to choose how you want the wind speed to be displayed.
If you click on the Table option it will provide a ten-day forecast with six-hourly predictions showing sky state temperature, rainfall wind speed and direction. Again, the first three days can be expanded into hourly predictions.
If you click on the Nearby option there is a link to the Higher Town webcam provided by Carron Farm which is on the hill above Par Beach where we are based.
This is a lovely weather forecasting app, its only drawback for me is that it doesn’t provide information on humidity.
#5 - Ventusksy - £2.99
This is a weather app that you have to pay for but it is amazing. It is used by a lot of my birding friends as it shows a global forecast and they use it to track weather systems that may bring rare birds to Scilly.
Zoomed out to a global scale the app shows areas of high and low pressure as well as warm and cold fronts. When zoomed in to your location there are hourly predictions for three days in advance, after that it’s three-hourly predictions for up to fourteen days.
Simply scroll along at the bottom of the screen to advance the forecast. The app will also show you the past week’s weather forecast. The app will give you sky state and temperature and then whichever one of sixteen different parameters that you choose.
For wind speed there are lots of options, I use 10m above ground but it goes all the way to 30000 ft. The graphic shows the wind direction with arrows and the figure for the speed, which is also shown as a colour. On this app anything over a green, ie orange and red is too windy for hiring. I also check the wind gust predictions and this information is represented in the same way.
Humidity data, again you can choose height above ground, is provided in factors of 10 so not in quite as much detail as other apps.
You can’t beat local knowledge
As well as the information given to me by the weather forecasting apps, I use my local knowledge in deciding whether to hire or not. There are certain wind directions where it is only calm close to the shore but windier away from the shelter of St Martin’s, so I restrict the Zones our customers can go to.
Par Beach faces a south easterly direction so any wind above about 15 mph can make conditions unpleasant on the beach. Also with easterly winds they always seem to freshen on the flood tide so it can often be windier than forecast. Annoyingly, easterly winds always seem to go off in the evening, after we’ve closed for the day!
If you’ve not used any of the apps I’ve suggested, give them a try and let me know what you think of them in the comments below.