How to use a weather API?
To use a weather API, you will need an ‘API key’. A key is basically a unique identifier that identifies the program calling to the API. It’s like the ‘secret code’ for accessing the API.
When you sign up for a weather API, you should get an API key that lets applications on your end access the API. This key can be inserted into the snippet of code on your website or application that calls the API.
You can further configure the specifics about API from the code editor. For example, you can program the weather API to make calls every 10 minutes to update weather information.
What to look for in a weather API?
Weather APIs are flexible and versatile, so different models have very different functions/architecture. Each API has a unique set of capabilities and has a unique cost.
Other APIs may be used for highly specialized things like air quality monitoring or agricultural purposes. With so many options around, it can be tough to figure out which API to pick.
If you google weather API, you get a ton of results. So, when shopping around for a weather data API, make sure to consider the following features.
What is its data coverage?
This is the basic question you need to ask. Weather APIs need to be able to integrate with your mobile or web application. Most APIs will give the same relay of basic info but differ with specifics.
So, before picking a weather API make sure it has the unique set of functions for weather information you want.
Weather APIs can get pretty specific and niche. Did you know there is a weather API for tracking conditions on Mars? So it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll find an API that has the thing you want.
Also, we should mention that free weather APIs, although convenient, usually have a limited amount of features or limit the number of API calls you can perform.
In other words, if you want more functions out of your API then you’ll probably have to shell out for additional features.
Compatibility/Ease of Use
Compatibility is another big feature to consider. Modern Weather APIs are based on two main types of architecture: RESTful and SOAP.
The main difference between the two is the notation and format for specific values. For instance, RESTful and SOAP use different formats for date/time values.
RESTful and SOAP may vary in compatibility with certain frameworks and languages. This could make coding more difficult if you are using a weakly compatible framework.
Also, make sure to consider how much documentation/training resources you get. Most weather API services have at least a few tutorials. Some have extensive libraries of training materials.
Documentation is particularly important. This is because documentation is a running list of all the developmental and maintenance aspects of the API.
Lastly, check and see if there are any user support forums. Some API services have vibrant communities that share their knowledge and expertise with one another.
Weather APIs need to not only do what you want but do it quickly. Weather APIs can vary pretty heavily between different models. Speed can vary based on all kinds of conditions.
Unfortunately, that means that consistent and reliable data about speed performance is hard to come by. The best way to actually figure out speeds and response times is to actually try the software.
Luckily, most weather API providers have free trials. That way you can spend some time with the software before making a financial commitment.
Most weather APIs have pricing tiers of various levels with different features. As we said earlier, a lot of weather API services offer free plans that come with a limited number of features.
Free plans also tend to have lower uptimes, response times, and capacity so a paid plan is almost always a better idea. Some take the freemium approach and offer paid add-ons.
The average basic pricing plan for the typical weather API is about $35-$50 per month. This price can vary substantially depending on the service.
What are the 6 best weather APIs?
The best weather API will actually depend on your specific needs, but we put together this list of good weather APIs that have a solid mix of features. Here is a quick list of our seelctions:
5. Dark Sky
OpenWeatherMap is one of the most popular API weather apps and weather forecast API. OpenWeatherMap is an open-source weather API and they welcome customizations.
OpenWeatherMap is based on a crowdfunding design. The data is gathered from over 40,000 broadcast services all over the world. The free API gives you the 5-day/3-hour forecast, a weather map, and weather alerts.
A few things to keep in mind though: On the freemium plan, you only get access to 60 API calls every minute at most. But you get up to 1,000,000 calls every month.
The basic pricing plan for OpenWeatherMap starts at $40 a month and goes up to the enterprise plan for $2,000/mo. The app uses a weather API JSON/XML integration and format.
- Very popular service
- Bulk downloading
- 16-day daily and 30-day climate forecast
- No historical data
- Free plan is limited
Up next is Weather2020, another popular weather API. Weather2020 is known in particular for its long-range forecasts and currently serves over 10 million forecasts every day.
Weather2020 was designed by the famous meteorologist Gary Lezak and is powered using the most cutting-edge meteorological models.
One of its most unique features is the 12-week long-range weather forecasts. The flexible APi allows you to easily integrate forecasts and videos into your mobile app. You can make forecasts by:
- Zip Code
Weather 2020 is currently used by some popular weather forecast apps like 1Weather. It has a freemium plan that comes with 1000 API calls every day and a $0.002 charge for calls after.
The Pro plan starts at $9.99 and goes all the way up to the Ultra plan at $39.99/mo. They also have a Mega plan with variable prices for large businesses.
- Unique long-range forecast capabilities
- Free plan comes with 1,000 free API calls every day
- Very affordable pricing options.
- Even the highest plan only has 5,000 calls every day
- Relatively basic information
- No specialized metrics (UV, Wind speed, etc.)
Sitting at 3rd is ClimaCell, a ‘Microweather” API designed for presenting hyper-local weather information. ClimaCell offers minute-by-minute updates on specific regions.
ClimaCell has a huge network made up of wireless signals, IoT devices, drones, and more, and analyzes that info with AI-drive models. ClimaCell is used by several big-name companies like Delta and United Airlines.
ClimaCell probably has one of the largest numbers of functions we have seen in a weather API. It has functions for:
- Air quality
- Realtime data
- Forecast data
- Lighting maps
- Historical weather data
- Fire index
- Road risks
- And much more
ClimaCell also has a lot of app integrations and compatible formats, so it is relatively easy to set up.
The one drawback to Climacell may be over information. There is so much you can do with the interface that figuring out everything can be intimidating.
The ClimaCell API has a free version that allows for 30,000 calls per month (capped at 1,000 per day). You can stay on the free plan as long as you want without committing to a paid plan.
The paid plans start at $49/mo and go up to the Enterprise plan for $449/mo. You can get a 20% discount on subscription prices if you opt for annual instead of monthly billing.
- Very large library of functions
- Great interface
- Highly flexible API design is great for all kinds of apps
- Very generous free plan
- Some aspects are a bit buggy
- Backlinks required on all plans
- All plans have limited calls per day
At 4th is AccuWeather, another popular API with a ton of functionality. AccuWeather’s core package comes with 9 APIs, including services for:
- Current conditions
AccuWeather’s service also provides you with a wide range of historical data for locations all over the world. You can build a lot of really cool applications with the API tools.
Here are a couple of the weirder daily indices that AccuWeather keeps track of:
- Mosquito activity
- Fuel economy
- Lawn mowing
- Outdoor barbecue (??)
- Dog Walking Comfort
To be honest, you will definitely never need everything that you get with AccuWeather’s weather API, but at least you can get a lot of mileage out of it.
One other unique feature of AccuWeather is the imagery endpoints. These endpoints let you add some nice colors to your app interfaces.
AccuWeather does not have a free plan. Instead, they offer a limited free trial with up to 50 calls per day. The limited trial only includes some of the basic features and indices.
Paid plans start at as little as $25/mo. The lowest plan gets you 225,000 calls every month and a $0.12 charge for calls after that.
The highest plan is the Elite plan which costs $500/mo. The elite plan gets you up to 2,400,000 calls each month with a $0,22 charge for each call after.
- Very large list of available indices
- Good graphics and color options
- Large number of calls on all plans
- Free plan is very limited
- Many available indices are fairly irrelevant and would be hard to find a use for
5. Dark Sky
Dark Sky is another hyperlocal weather API in the vein of ClimaCell. Dark Sky’s API (which used to be known as forecast.io API), has been mentioned on several “best API” lists.
The Dark Sky API gives you access to:
- Current weather
- Minute-by-minute updates for hourly forecasts
- Day-by-day forecasts up to 7-days
- Historical data going back decades
Two unique features of the Dark Sky API are the Forecast and Time Machine requests. Time Machine gathers historical data based on the given past or future date. The Forecast tool returns the weekly forecast.
Dark Sky is also known for its flexibility. It is easy to make unique looking interfaces. The Dark Sky API does not include icons so you are not locked into a predetermined selection.
As far as historical data goes, Dark Sky has a massive amount. In some locations, you can pull weather data from up to 100 years ago. It is the best historical weather API we have covered.
Another aspect is the community involvement. Dark Sky is open source so so there are a lot of unofficial wrappers and mods on software libraries
Dark Sky has recently been bought out by Apple and is currently going through some changes. The current service for Android phones will end in mid-2020, but iOS service will continue undisturbed.
- Highly customizable interface
- Very affordable
- Simple documentation is easy to follow
- Large library of relevant historical data
- No icons mean you are not locked into a specific branding
- iOS exclusive, not a weather API for android
- Could have some more features
Weatherbit is another weather API python-based app. Weatherbit utilizes 5 distinct APIs to collect a wide variety of information, such as:
- Air quality
- Soil temperature
- Soil moisture
- And more
The unique draw of Weatherbit is that it uses machine learning and AI to analyze patterns and make future forecasts. Weatherbit adds data from other stations and sources around the globe.
Another great feature is the high uptime. Weatherbit claims it has a 95% uptime, which is a pretty grandiose claim.
Weatherbit has a free limited plan, like a lot of other weather APIs do. The free plan is actually even more limited than normal because you can’t use it for commercial purposes.
Paid plans start at $35/mo and allow for up to 50,000 calls per day. Paid plans go all the way up to the Advanced level for $470/mo.There is also an Enterprise plan for larger organizations.
The starter plan is still fairly limited, unfortunately You don’t even get any access to historical data until you get to the developer plan or higher.
- Uses sophisticated AI and machine learning to drive predictions
- Very high uptimes of 99%
- Collects data from several sources
- 5 different API sources
- Free plan is limited and does not allow for commercial use
- Some more common indices are missing
- You have to get the Developer plan for $160/mo to get any good features
Weather API FAQ
What are the best weather APIs?
It depends on what, exactly, you need. Weather APIs have different strengths and focuses. What is best for one person and their goals may not be the best for others.
What does a weather API do?
Weather APIs act as the go-between for a weather app and a weather service provider. They allow two computing devices to talk to each other and request weather data from one another.
Weather APIs are used to build weather apps. They serve as the intermediary that allows weather service providers to give info to websites and applications. The weather app in your phone is built using a weather API.
How much does a weather API cost?
It depends on the specific service. Most basic weather API plans cost around $30-$50 a month. Many API providers offer a free plan with limited features.
API providers may also have upsells and extra charges. For example, many providers charge you extra once you go over the allotment of monthly calls.
How do I get my weather API key?
The API key is what lets your computer talk to the API interface. Generally, you should get a unique API key whenever you sign up with an API provider.
Once you have the API key, you insert it into a URL command written in the appropriate programming language. You can also write a separate program that makes API requests.
How much coding do I need to know to use a weather API?
You will have to know a bit of coding to use a weather API. Thankfully, the basic commands are fairly simple and only involve a few commands.
Further, most of the best weather APIs use Python, a super simple and intuitive programming language. Python is one of the most popular programming languages so there are tons of resources for learning at all levels.
Can I use a free weather API with no key?
Generally no, you cannot. Most of the time you will have an API key to use an API service. The main reason why companies have API keys is so they can make sure their software is being used legitimately.
There are some API platforms that do not require you to use an API. However, if you are not using an API key, your customization options are normally constrained.
Weather APIs are flexible frameworks for building weather applications. With a weather API, you can gather the right information and present it in the most accessible manner.
Weather APIs are a useful tool for any business that is disappointed with routine weather apps from the app store. Weather APIs let you create custom frameworks tailored to your business needs.
We covered just a few of the weather APIs out there. There are a lot more that have unique features. Whether you need basic info about daily weather conditions or you want specialized comprehensive information, there is an API service for you.