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Track extreme weather all over the world with Earth Alerts

24 June 2013, Mike Williams

While there are plenty of weather monitoring apps around, most of them are, well, just a little dull. They’ll tell you it might be windy later, and that there’s a chance of rain tomorrow, but that’s about as exciting as it gets.

Earth Alerts is different. It can give you details on the locations you define – current conditions, maps, forecasts and so on – but what it’s really about is tracking more severe events. Earthquakes alerts, tsunami warnings, forest fires, landslides, cyclones, they’re all detailed here.

Getting this to work starts by adding one or more locations which you’d like to monitor. Earth Alerts is focused on the United States and displays severe American weather by default, but you can also add locations from anywhere in the world.

With the basic configuration done, Earth Alerts should download the latest updates. This can take a little while, but clicking the “Update Now” link will at least get the process started. And once all the necessary data has arrived, the program organises this into three main areas: a Global Overview, United States Overview, and whatever custom locations you might provide.

Maps, radar images, satellite photos and more are just a click away

Just glancing at each section gives you a little more information – as we write, for instance, the Global Overview section has one “Tropical Cyclone” alert – but clicking any of these will allow you to drill down for the detail.

And there’s plenty of detail to explore. You’ll see who issued any warnings or alerts, for instance, and exactly what they say. Maps and satellite images told us more about the cyclone. Our volcano alerts displayed reports, photos, webcam views. And there are all kinds of links to external services, from government and meteorology websites right through to Google Earth.

The program does also support more regular weather-monitoring tasks, though. Add a location and you can view the current conditions, radar maps, satellite photos and more, as well as a prediction for the next few days. Although even here, there’s extra data available. We added Los Angeles as a location, for instance, and were able to view a Hazardous Weather report which warned up of possible rip currents at the beaches, and an upcoming prolonged heat wave.

There are some irritations, too. In particular, the program appears to assume you’ll want to run it forever. By default it sets itself up to automatically launch along with Windows; the close button minimises it to the system tray, and it’ll automatically grab updates every 10 minutes. It’s all a little aggressive for a default configuration, although if you’re not happy with this then it’s at least easy enough to change (click “Applications” in the Settings panel to see the various options).

Once you’ve got everything working at you’d like, though – and you’ve mastered the rather quirky interface – Earth Alerts proves to be an unusual but effective weather monitor, and could be particularly valuable when you’re travelling to some exotic location.

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