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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 07/22/2008

Rate a Radar

By Jason Samenow

Severe Thunderstorm Watch in Effect until 4 p.m. east of the Chesapeake Bay. See earlier post for more info and radar.

Of all the tools in the weather tool box, I bet radar ranks as the most useful for anyone who has a stake in the weather. The ability to see where precipitation is, its form (i.e. rain, snow, or mix), its intensity, how fast it's moving, and its characteristics (e.g. for thunderstorms, are they rotating, do they contain hail?) is critical. So all of us doppler devotees should be delighted about all of the new bells and whistles emerging on the new generation radar displays on the web. Let me take you on a brief tour of some of the different radars, then I'd like you to vote for your favorite...

Keep reading for the radar safari. See our full forecast for the rainy outlook.

Fox HD Radar: The Fox "high definition" radar allows you to pan, zoom, alter transparency and overlay satellite imagery and temperatures over a Google map. Its best feature may be its "Storm Tracker" which allows you to overlay current watches and warnings, Storm Prediction Center risk categories, and, at the same time, click on individual storms to obtain information about storm motion, the possibility of hail, etc. The one problem I noticed with this radar is that as you zoom in, the radar echoes become blurry and pixelated. Its "interactive weather map", like the Fox display, displays radar and satellite imagery and allows you to zoom and pan. It's a bit more feature-loaded than the Fox radar, as it also allows you to display a range of weather metrics such as dewpoints, wind, and past precipitation in addition to temperature. Another really nice feature is the ability to plot golf courses, parks, schools, airports, and sporting venues on the maps so you can see exactly where the precipitation is in relation to these landmarks. Similar to the Fox radar, the radar tends to become blurry as you zoom in.

My Weather LLC (Example in link is from Zoom out and pan for the radar view over D.C.): My Weather produces a radar product for the web very similar to Fox and The Weather Channel. It uses Flash technology to allow you to pan, zoom and alter transparency and uses Microsoft Visual Earth for its base maps. At the moment, while the interface allows you to view satellite imagery, you can not overlay other weather data or landmarks. However, it does have a very cool "Storm Cells" feature enabling you to click on different storms and obtain information about storm characteristics (e.g. the likelihood of hail and strong winds). Also, when you mouse over the storms, it displays an arrow which shows the direction the storm is moving and when it will reach certain locations. Unlike the and Fox radars, when you zoom in with this radar, the echoes do not become blurry and pixelated but remain smooth all the way to the street level.

Weather Underground: Wunderground has developed the wundermap which has similar zooming, panning and transparency options as all of the others. When you zoom down to the street level, the radar echoes are smoothed, but not as elegantly as the My Weather radar. One of the best features of this radar is the weather station overlay which displays local neighborhood temperatures and additional weather information when you click on the station. Additional overlays include model data, warnings and hurricane information. Noticeably missing though is the information about individual storms and storm motion available on its very popular non-Flash radar.

Explore these radars by panning over storm areas, zooming in and out and experimenting with the different features. Then respond to these poll questions...

Last but not least, comment with what your preferred local radar choice is at the moment.

By Jason Samenow  | July 22, 2008; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Technology  
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I prefer any radar that is up to date and not delayed by 15 or so. But question - why does the Post now say the high today will be 100?? Is that accurate?

Posted by: alexandria | July 22, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Wx Underground gets a little busy with all of the ads on the free version, but you just can't beat the quality of their radar and its features, especially when you considered that it *is* free...

Posted by: VAStateOfMind | July 22, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm sold on Weather Underground's Wundermap!

My only slight irritation is when a severe weather watch/warning box covers my county. All local geographic features are completely obscured by the solid color overlay.

Yes... I can adjust the opacity of the approaching weather. Additionally, I can remove the "Severe Weather" boxes by un-checking that option. However, the opacity of the watch/warning box can't be adjusted.

(Just a minor complaint.)

Posted by: Country Boy In CalvertCo | July 22, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Wunderground has all other radars beat. It is by far the best and most detailed FREE radar available. My only problem with it is that it takes foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrr for it to load. But, once it does, it's worth it!

Posted by: weatherdudeVA (Lake Ridge) | July 22, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

WUnderground for me too. Also, the link you gave to their "interactive" map is not the 'full-feature' link. If you add "&rad.stm=1" (no quotes) to the given wunderground url, it will (or should...) show you the storm tracks too EG:

Still doesn't give you the same storm info that the "default" wunderground radar does, but neither do any of the other sites.

Posted by: Wrinkle | July 22, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Wunderground, definitely...and by the way, with these unconscionable dewpoints that we've got after this morning's action, I don't see how we'll top 90 let alone 100.

Posted by: Max | July 22, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Wunder is my choice.

Posted by: VaTechBob. | July 22, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

WUnderground for me. I even splurge and pay the $10/year for an ad-free experience.

Posted by: Craig | July 22, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I stopped using Accuweather and's radar the day wunderground launched their radar.

Posted by: LlamaMan | July 22, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I continue to be amazed by the number of people who post on here and ask things like "when will it rain in my neighborhood?" when all they have to do is access any one of those radars (preferably a regional radar) and see for themselves by the movement of the storm. But they are probably the same kind of people who have nannies and or servants in their homes and have never learned to do anything worthwhile by themselves.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 22, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Accuweather doesn't update the local radar screen on their free service often enough, but in my opinion it is far and away the best and clearest picture....and the easiest one to read at a glance.

Posted by: Mike fom Vienna | July 22, 2008 11:11 PM | Report abuse

HANDS DOWN - Fox HD Radar. It has the absolute best images out there. I like that you can lay a satellite image over the Gopogle map. Their Tropical Tracker is awesome as well. I'm sold on the Fox Weather tools.

Posted by: brocklobster | July 23, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I go with the easiest to use. Fox Weather seems to be the simplest.

Posted by: iluvweather | July 23, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the google map comment for Fox weather.

Posted by: tornado | July 23, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JB | July 23, 2008 9:42 PM | Report abuse

The Fox HD radar is far superior to the others because it truely perserves the real quality and resolution of the radar data. The My Weather radar loads fast but it looks very "cartoon like"...actual storms and actual radar data doesn't look like that. It might be "pretty" but it doesn't represent reality.

Posted by: radarguy | July 23, 2008 11:55 PM | Report abuse

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