There are numerous apps and websites available on the Internet to get accurate weather radar data. However, many require a fee, either to purchase the app or to subscribe to the radar data itself. While most of these paid options will give you real-time live radar data, a few free radar websites and apps offer user-friendly radar imagery with minimal delay.
Why is a minimal delay so vital? In the summer months, thunderstorms can both form and move quite quickly. In the winter months, having up to the minute radar data can keep you safe during winter storms. Weather radar websites and apps that don’t update their radar data in a timely fashion put you at risk, especially if you’re outdoors.
Here Are the Best Weather Radar Websites and Apps
We’ve assembled a list of the seven best weather radar websites and apps for 2020. All of them are both free to download and use. At the end, we’ve also included our recommendations of top paid weather radar apps if you need the best radar data available with the least amount of delay because even the top free apps will delay radar data by five or so minutes.
1. National Weather Service
We couldn’t start this list without going right to the source. The National Weather Service offers radar data free from its website and is relatively easy to use. You can view animations and view other radar products that show wind velocity and rainfall as well. The site also layers warning boxes over the image so you can see which storms have severe warnings.
However, there are some negatives. The resolution of the imagery is a little grainy, and there’s no way to plot your position on the map, and its zooming capabilities are limited. You’ll also need Flash installed on your computer to run the loops, which some may object to for security reasons. There is also no app available, as the NWS can’t compete with private services due to Federal law.
- Free service
- Offers more than just traditional precipitation radar
- Resolution is grainy
- No way to plot your position on the map
- Requires Flash player
2. NOAA Weather Radar Live
The app’s name does suggest that this is the NWS’s official app, but it’s not. Created by Apalon Apps, NOAA Weather Radar Live is an excellent alternative to using the NWS radar site on your phone. Radar images are in real-time and zoomed in on your location. During the winter months, the app overlays precipitation type so you can spot where it’s raining and where it’s snowing. Also available is precipitation and satellite data, and you can view forecast data for any location on the map.
While the amount of data you get for free is substantial, you’ll need to pay for severe weather alerts and lightning data. The premium version also eliminates ads and adds a hurricane tracker, but the app got a considerable UI update for the New Year, so the ads aren’t too obtrusive.
- Well designed app
- Lots of data for free
- You have to pay for severe weather alerts and lightning data, which is available free with other apps
3. The Weather Channel
If the lack of lightning and warning data of NOAA Weather Radar Live is an issue, we’d recommend The Weather Channel’s app instead. While obviously, it’s a more general weather app, there are some great radar features that we think are worth mentioning. Zooming in and out of imagery is fluid, and the satellite map used allows you to zoom down to street level. It also has an innovative future radar option, which attempts to forecast future storm movement up to six hours in advance.
If we had to pick a negative with this one, it’s that the app smooths radar imagery too much to make it look attractive on the screen. In turn, this may cause some inaccuracy in the data, especially when zoomed in. But there’s a solution. A few months back, The Weather Channel launched a fee-based feature called Premium Radar. It offers much higher resolution images, including the forecast radar imagery we talked about earlier.
- Well-designed user interface
- Access to The Weather Channel’s news and video coverage
- Free radar version smooths out radar too much
- You have to pay for higher quality radar images
For outdoor enthusiasts that might require a more comprehensive look at the weather—especially boaters and pilots—Windy is a great option. In addition to radar, it overlays wind data information in a fluid and visually appealing way. You can layer all kinds of things on top, from precipitation to cloud cover, and even browse through weather model data.
While there’s a lot to like about Windy, the radar data is often five or more minutes old. It also might be a bit too complex for the average user to understand, so we’d recommend some of the other weather websites and apps if you’re looking for something easy to use.
- Visually appealing maps
- Lots of weather data options
- Weather radar data is often 5+ minutes old
- Has a learning curve
App: Android / iOS
AccuWeather is another app that does a whole lot more than just radar. Along with radar, you also have access to AccuWeather’s 15-day forecasts and a host of other weather data. The radar also has a future radar option, but unlike the Weather Channel’s, it only goes out three hours in advance. Zooming in and out is easy too.
While it doesn’t smooth the radar images to the degree The Weather Channel’s app does, it is still enough that it may cause some inaccuracy. The user interface is not as intuitive as others on our list, but in terms of the amount of data available, it is one of the more feature-rich.
- Access to AccuWeather content
- Lots of data options
- Radar images aren’t the best resolution
- Future radar only goes out 3 hours
6. Weather Underground
The Weather Underground is an excellent app if you’re looking for both radar information and hyperlocal weather conditions. The site has the most extensive collection of personal weather stations in the world, and this data is put on the map with the radar giving you a much more comprehensive picture of what’s going on at a particular location.
However, if current weather observations aren’t vital to you, then the added information might get in the way. Also, after being bought by The Weather Channel several years back, its functionality is not much different than The Weather Channel’s app. We feel that unless you need the hyperlocal conditions that Weather Underground provides, opt for The Weather Channel app instead.
- Offers hyperlocal weather conditions
- Lots of information from its extensive PWS network
- Not much different than The Weather Channel App
- Radar images are smoothed, just like the free Weather Channel app
Although it doesn’t have nearly the reputation it had a decade ago, WeatherBug is still around and still offering hyperlocal current weather conditions on its website thanks to its network of weather stations situated at homes, schools, television stations, and other locations throughout the world. The company also has an app, with good weather and lightning data, all for free.
While its visual maps for all kinds of weather data are pretty impressive, like the two apps above, it smooths out radar images. Again, not to the degree, The Weather Channel does in its free app, but enough. We recommend sticking with the free version—the paid version is $19.99 and takes away the ads.
- Lots of high-quality weather information
- Lightning data is included
- Radar image quality could be better
- $19.99 for an ad-free version with no additional functionality
Our Top Paid App Pick: RadarScope
If none of the above weather apps have what you’re looking for, and you’re willing to spend money on a quality professional weather radar app or website, hands down our top recommendation is RadarScope. Available on Android and iOS for $9.99 and Windows or Mac for $29.99, this app is one of the quickest updating around.
You have access to every single radar product that the pros do, at practically the same time they see them—along with up to the minute warning information. Stepping up to the Pro Tier 1 subscription for $9.99 per year gets you longer animations and lightning data (a must for outdoor enthusiasts), dual pane capability, and inspection tools. While the top end Tier 2 package adds in hail and shear contouring (the latter necessary for tornado formation), as well as multi-platform use and a 30-day radar archive.
But even for just $9.99 for the app alone without the tiered options, the standard data is fantastic.
- It’s the absolute best radar app out there, period.
- Little if any delay in radar imagery
- You need the $9.99/year Tier 1 plan to get the most out of the app
Runner Up Paid Pick: Dark Sky
This app was so good that Apple acquired it. While the app is still currently available for Android and there’s a website too, both will only be available until July 1, 2020. After that, the app is iOS only. While we fully expect Dark Sky’s features to end up in the Apple Weather app, for the time being, it will remain a separate app.
Dark Sky is famous for its down to the minute weather forecast, which lets you know exactly what’s going to happen and when. We’ve tried it out—the app is impressively good for short term forecasts. The weather animations are seamless and polished, and while there’s a reasonable degree of smoothing (a feature we’d wish Apple would allow us to change) and the radar color scheme used is a little unusual, this is still a great all-around premium weather app.
- Impressive accuracy with its forecasts
- Seamless animations
- There’s a good deal of smoothing in the imagery
- Non-traditional radar color scheme that you can’t turn off
Whatever option you choose, any of the weather radar websites and apps above will keep you informed in the event severe weather strikes. If we didn’t include your favorite weather radar app, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear what apps and websites you depend on to keep you out of harm’s way.