The Best Weather Sites
You can find weather information just about everywhere – from your watch to your phone to screens in public spaces. But weather sites are still the best source of in-depth weather information in an easy-to-read format, especially when you’re tracking a storm or other weather phenomenon.
First, and foremost, the best weather sites provide an accurate forecast that’s simple to read and understand. Their weather advisories catch your eye. And specialized forecasts, charts, and maps are easily accessible. Specifically, here’s what we considered.
According to research by Forecast Watch, a company that tracks forecast accuracy, The Weather Channel (aka Weather.com) and AccuWeather consistently rank within the top three for forecast accuracy in the United States. Accuracy rates hover around 85 percent. However, your local area may be just as well served by Dark Sky or Weather Underground. You can see who ranks highly in your area at ForecastAdvisor.
The best sites let you see the day’s forecast at a glance, including temperature highs and lows , how cold it feels (the “real feel”), and whether you’ll need an umbrella. If there is dangerous weather in your area, a weather advisory is clearly visible.
Most weather sites have ads, which appear on the page and occasionally, and annoyingly, pop up over the content. Dark Sky is the only site on our list that doesn’t have any ads. The Weather Channel, AccuWeather and Weather Underground all have ads, but there are few, if any, pop up ads.
Specialized forecasts and weather maps
If you fish, ski, or enjoy a day at the beach, a site that offers specialized forecasts can be valuable. You’ll also find allergy and air quality forecasts on some sites. And for those that want a deeper dive into the data, some sites offer a range of maps.
We found four weather sites that met our criteria and which we would highly recommend: The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, Weather Underground, and Dark Sky.
The best weather site: The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel is the best weather site for most people, offering an accurate forecast that’s easy to read, high-quality weather-related news, and a wide selection of useful specialized forecasts and maps. While there are ads, they don’t significantly detract from the viewing experience.
Forecast Watch consistently ranks The Weather Channel among the top three for weather forecast accuracy, making it a good choice for your local weather and when traveling. We like the fact that there is a favorite cities bar at the top of the page that automatically populates as you search for weather, so you can easily toggle between places. And, it’s easy to remove a city once it’s no longer a top priority. If there is an active weather advisory, there is a visible bar that shows the warning and how long it will be in effect.
The Weather Channel has an easy-to-use interactive map that you can use to layer on radar and satellite imagery. You can then go deeper into data like dew point, humidity, temperature, and wind, among others. You can also toggle on sightings of local area lightning and wildfires, turn on official marine, flood, tornado, and other official watches and warnings, view storm tracks, and much more.
The specialty forecasts, though, are where The Weather Channel really shines. The site carries over its clean graphically driven interface to each of its specialty forecasts – Allergy Tracker, Boat & Beach, Farming/Gardening, and Ski Forecast (Cold & Flu and Fishing aren’t currently active) – to surface information that’s important. For instance, tide data, wind conditions, UV index, sunset, and any small craft advisories are prominently displayed for the Boat & Beach report, and the Gardening forecast features soil moisture, humidity, precipitation, and temperature.
As a weather news outlet, The Weather Channel offers timely weather stories and videos. Plus, there’s a whole section devoted to beautiful and interesting photos. The depth of weather news is greater than other weather sites.
The Weather Channel does the best job of providing both quick at-a-glance weather information and more in-depth content, making it our top pick for the best weather site.
For hyperlocal forecasts: AccuWeather
Of all the weather sites, AccuWeather does the best job of delivering your local forecast. Like The Weather Channel, AccuWeather consistently ranks within the top three sites for forecast accuracy. In addition, it has a proprietary forecasting tool that provides a highly-precise hyperlocal near-term forecast, which AccuWeather calls Minutecast. Through Minutecast, you’ll to-the-minute predictions of any weather that’s expected in the next 120 minutes. So, if you want to know if you have time to mow the lawn before the rain starts, Minutecast provides a quick answer.
Finding your local forecast is just a matter of searching. Once you’ve searched for a location, it will appear as a suggested location when you return, making it easy to click into your local forecast. AccuWeather’s local forecast page has a clean, easy-to-read design. There you’ll find an overview of the day’s weather, a weather alert from Minutecast if there’s precipitation expected in the next 120 minutes, and an alert to any expected severe weather in the upcoming days in a section called Looking Ahead. And, if you click into Current Weather (or any of the other forecasts), you’ll see how the temperature feels in the shade as well as the sun.
AccuWeather’s maps are limited to radar, satellite, current conditions (meaning temperature), and severe weather (which you can top into to see the alert). Like The Weather Channel, you can view past weather as well as the predicted weather.
AccuWeather provides a wide variety of specialized forecasts. There are the expected ones like Ski, Sun & Sand, Allergies, and Sailing, but AccuWeather goes beyond with a variety of lifestyle forecasts. You can check the Hair Day (can you expect frizzy hair), Mosquito, and Migraine forecasts. In total, there are 27 specialized forecasts. Any specialized forecast you check will then show up on the top bar of the site with a rating. While AccuWeather gives you the rating, the site doesn’t provide the underlying data. So, if the Sailing forecast today in Raleigh, North Carolina, is a 4, you’ll see “Expect only fair conditions for sailing.” You don’t get tide data, wind speed, and other pertinent data on the Sailing page.
For news, AccuWeather has a blog that’s written by its staff of weather experts, which range in specialties from regional weather to astronomy and climate change. You’ll also find videos produced by AccuWeather and taken from across the web. The selection isn’t as deep as The Weather Channel, but there’s plenty to watch.
If you’re looking for the best at-a-glance short-term local forecast, AccuWeather is the best. The site has a clean (though ad-supported) interface and gets you in and out armed with exactly what you need for the day.
For direct access to weather station data: Weather Underground
If you want to choose where your weather data is coming from, or even use your own weather station, Weather Underground is the best choice for you. The site will automatically pull from a nearby weather station, but you can select Change next to the weather station name and select any station. And in many locations, especially more rural areas, Weather Underground is ranked highly by Forecast Watch.
Finding your local forecast is as easy as allowing the site to see your location and pull up the nearest station, or you can search for your city. If you regularly check the weather in a variety of locations, you can create a Favorite Cities list. Your local forecast will show the forecast for the day and local radar. Weather advisories show up in a bar at the top of the page.
The interactive weather map on Weather Underground, called the Wundermap, lets you access a variety of weather information, including temperature, wind speed and direction, dew point and humidity, and precipitation. You can also toggle on storm tracks, lightning, and active wildfires, among other data. You can look at current, past, and future readings as a video showing changes over time. If the map looks similar to the one for The Weather Channel, that’s because both sites are owned by The Weather Company.
Specialized forecasts are limited to Pollen, air quality, and UV index, which you can find right below the local forecast. Clicking on any rating will take you to a page with pollen data broken down into types of pollen, a map that shows fine particulate matter readings and UV risk based on skin type.
Weather Underground staff produces some weather news stories and videos, plus it pulls content in from The Weather Channel. You won’t find the depth that The Weather Channel has, but you will find plenty of stories and videos to keep you up to date.
If you want to know where your weather data is being collected, or want to use your own weather station, Weather Underground provides the best combination of an easy-to-read forecast with rich weather data and news when you want more information.
For a clean interface: Dark Sky
For a clean, ad-free weather site experience, Dark Sky delivers the best experience. The site has a spartan design that uses text, colors, and icons to deliver your local forecast in a compelling way. Dark Sky isn’t as consistently ranked for weather forecast accuracy as The Weather Channel and AccuWeather, but it does rank well in many areas, so be sure to check your location on ForecastAdvisor.
Dark Sky pulls in your location if you click on the arrow icon next to the search box and allow location information. Once you’ve searched for weather in a location, it will appear in a drop-down list when you click on the search box. Clicking on the X next to the city name will remove it from the list. On your local forecast page, you’ll find the daily forecast, UV index, information on notable upcoming weather (such as rain or severe weather), a moving graphic of any forecasted precipitation, and your local temperature map. Weather advisories show up as red text above your forecast.
The weather temperature map on your local forecast page can be changed to show cloud cover, precipitation radar, wind speed, ozone, dew point, and more. The maps don’t move, but you can select different times of day and dates to see how the weather will change.
Dark Sky doesn’t provide any specialized forecasts or news stories and related videos.
If you’re looking for an ad-free visually clean forecast, Dark Sky is the right site for you. It doesn’t have the resources of the other sites on our list, but when all you need is the forecast, you can be in and out in seconds.
Why you should trust me
Updated on 2/27/2020 with new picks
[Image credit: dog with umbrella via BigStockPhoto]