The climate is a hot issue and weather forecasting technology is suddenly cool. The urgent need for innovative weather and environmental conditions forecasting solutions is obvious whether you believe in climate change or not.
In fact, climate is not only the topic of discussion around the water cooler. There are businesses, entire industries in fact, where weather conditions have a direct impact on day-to-day business operations. Industries like logistics, aviation, competitive outdoor sports, public safety, mining and agriculture (to name just a few), are directly impacted by the weather.
For these industries weather forecasting accuracy can mean the difference between ending a fiscal year in profit or loss.
For example, according to the National Air Transportation Association, in the last week of January 2014 alone, 7,000 flights were cancelled in the United States. Every flight delay costs $78 per minute! In the UK, experts estimate the cost of bad weather to to the economy as a whole at 1 billion GBP / day.
However, at least some of the costs can be prevented with accurate weather forecasts. Inaccurate weather forecasts can cost millions of dollars and even human lives. So it’s no wonder so many developers are choosing to include weather forecast updates and alerts in web and mobile apps, and create solutions that are uniquely suited to the needs of enterprises.
Even the fitness band on my wrist is alerting me of potential weather hazards as I type this post. But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
For enterprises, the features of existing weather forecasting apps are far from enough. Many of these organizations turn to in-house development of custom apps to collect, process and display weather and environmental data relevant to enterprise operations, optimally also drawing weather data from multiple reliable sources.
If you are building a web or mobile app that needs to pull weather forecast data and historical information from large databases, you will need to use an API (Application Programming Interface). It’s simply more affordable and efficient than developing and maintaining your own. As a developer you should be accustomed to employing APIs to perform different tasks and functions in your apps.
Weather APIs are similar to map APIs in terms of integration and versatility of data sources. Each service provider collects, aggregates and processes meteorological and other relevant data, then offers access to it via API (among others) for free or for a cost. There are quite a few such service providers, each with a unique set of capabilities, a varying cost and different degree of reliability. Some even target specific markets or communities with unique features for agricultural applications and air quality monitoring.
With the broad selection available, choosing one (or more) weather API for your app can be challenging. So what should you consider before you scroll down to our list of recommended weather data API providers?
Like any API you integrate with your mobile or web app, the weather API you choose needs to do what you want and it needs to do it well. Overall, the majority of APIs will give you similar data, but will vary in resolution, the length of time back in historic weather records, as well as day and time formats. However, before you request an API key for each available service offering the functionality you need, be sure to define your scope as well.
For example, your app users are only interested in marine weather conditions or the weather on Mars (yes, that’s a thing), there are specific APIs that will give you the data you need without any unnecessary features or capabilities packaged in.
That said, it’s worth noting that free APIs can only give you so much and are limited not only in the number of API calls but also the functionality provided. The bottom line is that additional functionality comes with additional costs, which becomes especially relevant if your commercial app targets a vertical or business with specific needs that go beyond your general weekly forecast and current weather data.
Most weather APIs today are based on RESTful architecture, with a handful offering a SOAP alternative. Be sure to pay attention to those subtle differences in date and time formats, as well as well-tested compatibility with the app framework and language you’re coding in.
Another thing to take note of is documentation. While some services have in-depth tutorials and guides, others expect you to figure it out yourself or come armed with previous experience in implementing weather APIs.
You need it to not only do what you want and well, but you want your weather API of choice to be fast and available. There are a number of sources for information on uptime and response speed of available weather APIs, but the information there is not very consistent or accurate.
The best way to find out which APIs are reliable and fast enough to make it into the production version of your app is to try them. Fortunately, the majority of them offer a free trial option or freemium subscription. Which leads us to another important criteria: the price.
Once you’ve figured out your needs and scope, and narrowed down your list of potential weather API providers, it’s time to consider the price-tag. As one can expect, the features, uptime, capacity and responsiveness offered by the free API services is inferior to those of paid options. That said, even the highest priced APIs will become a significant expense only if and when the number of API requests made by your app is extremely high.
Naturally, we are going to include ourselves on the list but, hear us out, it’s not without merit. ClimaCell takes a unique approach that combines proprietary data, derived from virtual sensors such as wireless signals, connected vehicles, drones, and IoT devices, with AI-driven models. Climacell’s forecasts and real-time data are trusted by top companies such as Delta, United Airlines, Via, National Grid, and others.
The MicroWeather API offers both numerical data and map layers for its hyper-local minute-by-minute weather and air quality information, historical, real time, and forecast, globally.
In addition to its Weather API, Climacell also provides a fire index, road risks map display, lighting maps, historical weather data, and a complete suite of weather data and solutions which makes Climacell’s MicroWeather API a common choice for developers looking to create an app that delivers more than your standard daily forecast.
App Integration & Format: AWS, Autodesk, REST API using JSON for the requests and the responses, with HTTPS support
Pricing: Free Trial
OpenWeatherMap offers weather data APIs for different types of timeline data. In a solution inspired by crowdsourcing projects like WikiPedia, weather data is collected from meteorological broadcast services worldwide and over 40,000 weather stations. This freemium solution also has a feature-limited free option that allows access to the 5 days/3 hour forecast API, as well as weather alerts and a weather map.
One thing to consider is that in addition to having access to limited data, the free account for OpenWeatherMap also limits your app to 60 API calls a minute at most.
App Integration & Format: JSON / XML
Pricing: Starting at $40 monthly
Priding themselves by specializing in UK-specific and nautical weather and environmental data, Meteogroup offers four different APIs: Nautical API (Beta), Point Forecast, Point Observations, and Radar Precipitation Forecast (Beta).
If you’re in search of weather data for nautical verticals and UK-based customers, then the MeteoGroup API could be a fit. Keep in mind that the Meteogroup website and API documentation has been known to be hard to navigate and comprehend.
App Integration & Format: JSON with HTTPS support
Staying in the UK, The Weatherstack API is developed by a UK company that excels in SaaS with companies like Ipstack, Currencylayer, Invoicely, and Eversign. Aimed mostly at websites and mobile apps looking to include a live weather widget at minimal cost, even the paid features lack the depth and scope of weather data APIs for enterprise applications but good value for money for those looking for a basic solution.
App Integration & Format: REST API returns JSON formatted responses, and supports JSONP callbacks. HTTPS is enabled for paid subscriptions.
Pricing: Starting at $9.99 / month with feature-limited free option capped at 50,000 requests.
Weatherbit offers 5 different APIs for forecasts, historical data and other weather data such as air quality, soil temperature and soil moisture. Collecting data from weather stations and other traditional sourcers, Weatherbit claims to use machine learning and AI to help predict the weather.
Boasting a 95% uptime and highly responsive API servers, Weatherbit provides a free limited-functionality account for a single API key. If you’re looking to create a commercial app, note that the free API subscription will not be enough and you will have to upgrade to one of the paid plans.
App Integration & Format: JSON, HTTPS available for premium subscribers
Pricing: Premium pricing starts at $35 / month. Free version (not for use with commercial projects) limited to 500 API calls / day.
Weather2020 brands itself as the only provider capable of delivering a 12 week forecast, even though studies claim that’s impossible, and accuracy drops dramatically further than 10 days. The company also prides itself on being the weather data provider of leading weather apps like 1Weather.
If your focus is on long range weather forecasting, and you’re willing to take your chances on famed meteorologist Gary Lezak’s forecasting model, Weather2020 might be worth checking out. That said, it’s worth noting that at the time of writing, the API key request form on the Weather2020 website leads to a 404.
App Integration & Format: JSON
Pricing: Premium pricing starts at $9.99 / month. Free version allows for up to 1000 API calls / day with each additional call priced at $0.002.
AerisWeather API provides access to weather data and forecasts as well as storm reports, earthquake warnings, and other unique data for premium subscribers.
One of the main advantages of AerisWeather API is its documentation, as well as available developer toolkits for easier integration into your app.
App Integration & Format: RESTful calls and responses are formatted in JSON and JSONP
Pricing: Pricing starts at $23 / month. Free trial available (2 months).
Dark Sky is another popular weather data provider that excels in simplifying API access for integration in apps. There are only two basic API requests to choose from: Forecast and Time Machine. The Forecast will return the weather forecast for the next week (according to data available for the location), and the Time Machine Request returns weather conditions (observed or forecast) for a given date (past which in some location can be as far as 100 years or future).
Note that while you can use this API in both commercial and non-commercial applications, a badge saying “Powered by Dark Sky” is required wherever you display data drawn from the Dark Sky API.
App Integration & Format: JSON
Pricing: Free under 1,000 API calls per day, then each call is priced at $0.0001/call.
A developer’s choice of weather data API depends heavily on their goals, preferences, project scope and budget. There are numerous services available that offer data on topics ranging from air quality and skin dryness to earthquakes, fires and the weather on Mars which makes choosing the best weather API challenging. The services and solutions we listed cover all and any need that you, as a developer, might have. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments.