Knowing when and where it’s going to rain is one of the big reasons people bother with weather apps. Instead of “it will rain sometime today,” why not get weather forecasts more like “heavy rain starting in five minutes, and lasting for 45 minutes?”
Weather apps and websites are a dime a dozen. Most of them tell you whether it’ll be sunny, cloudy, or rainy on any given day. But Dark Sky offers something a bit different. After designing their own weather service from scratch, they can deliver hyperlocal and very accurate details.
On the web, darksky.net (formerly forecast.io) is an excellent, free website for finding detailed precipitation information. Give it your exact physical location—down to a street address, not just an entire city or zip code—and it provides forecasts for your area.
Rather than a few icons with information about the average weather each day, you’ll see a forecast for the next hour, the next 24 hours, and the next week. You can drill down and look at each weekday to see the projected precipitation and click to see exactly when in the day the forecast projects it’s going to rain.
Darksky.net doesn’t use existing weather services like Weather Channel, or the other services that power many similar apps. Instead, it aggregates data from a variety of raw data sources.
Dark Sky is a paid app ($3.99), but it’s also arguably one of the best mobile weather apps. They offer apps for both Android and iOS (and even support the Apple Watch). Dark Sky offers all the same information as the darksky.net website, but with a pretty, mobile-friendly interface and lots of configurable weather notifications.
You can set your preferred notification level—any rain, light rain, moderate rain, or heavy rain—and Dark Sky sends you a notification when it’s about to rain soon at that level. Those notifications often seem eerily accurate, and they let you know when you might want to leave somewhere and avoid the impending precipitation.
If you prefer not to pay for a weather app, you can get nearly the same quality information from free apps.
Android users can choose between Arcus Weather (which uses information from darksky.net) or Weather Underground (which builds information from detailed weather forecasts from live reports). Both are great apps, if not quite as slick as the Dark Sky app.
iPhone users are probably best sticking with Weather Underground if they don’t want to purchase Dark Sky.
Of course, if you’re not in need of the hyperlocal forecasts that Dark Sky and the other apps we’ve mentioned provide, both the App Store and the Google Play store offer plenty of alternative apps. And on the web, other services offer theoretically similar features to Dark Sky. For example, you can just go to Google and search for “weather [city]” to see projected rainfall levels for the hours of every day. But your average weather service doesn’t offer the same up-to-the-minute information and advanced notifications.