Roll your own Dashboard Radar Widget in 30 seconds

I spent the first 30 years of my life in sunny Southern California where the weather report primarily consisted of a recitation of the smog alert levels and information on what was happening in the rest of the country. Having lived on the East coast for the last 15 years weather has become a little more important to me - we actually have a lot of it.

I was playing around with the Dashboard yesterday, looking for a decent widget to help me get a good radar picture of my area. The weather widget that comes with Leopard is okay because it shows a forecast in a pleasing format however for those days when you have a serious thunderstorm in the area or a Nor'easter parks it's butt on your house you like to get a better idea of when it's going to vacate the area. For that, nothing beats a nice animated radar view of the weather:

The best weather radar I've found for the US is from the Wunderground weather site. So the technique I'm going to share with you will take less than a minute to do and will give you a current, high resolution animated radar picture of your region of the country instantly. It's really, really easy and all you need is a Mac running Leopard.

Step 1: Load up the Wunderground Radar Mosaic in the Safari web browser by clicking on this link:

Step 2: Click on the region of the country that you would like in your radar map.

Step 3: When your map appears, click on the little Animate button right below the map image.

Step 4: When your animated map appears, click the Scissors icon in the Safari toolbar, then select your animated map and click the Add button in the top-right corner of the browser.

Congratulations! You now have a nice, big (640x480) animated radar weather map of your area whenever you activate the Dashboard. The next time you hear of a storm approaching you can simply pop-up the dashboard and get an accurate picture of where the trouble is. I know this works in Leopard but since that's the only Mac OS I have I don't know if this will work in Tiger or earlier.

Don't live in the US? Want something with an international flavor? The reason the Wunderground map works is because their system generates an animated GIF file. I've tried some other sites that use different animation techniques and they don't work in the Dashboard. If you can find a site that generates radar maps outside the US that work using this technique please mention them in the comments below!

Yes, I know, if you live in Southern California you probably don't see a need for this. Just use this technique to keep an eye on those of us that actually have inclement weather.


Anonymous said…
What scissors icon? I'm using Safari 3.1 on Tiger. No scissors icon, no option to add one in "customize toolbar." Is this an Intel Mac only feature?
David Alison said…
@Matt T: Sorry Matt, as I said in the article I'm not sure if this will work in Tiger. If anyone knows how to do this in Tiger please speak up!
Anonymous said…
great tip dave. now can you tell me how you would keep it as a widget without having to leave it open all the time?

once i close it, when i re-open it the weather map is gone and only a generic web clip widget shows up.

David Alison said…
@Dennis: Hmmm - I've done this on both of my Macs and it kept the widget after I closed the Dashboard - reopening it later without problems and refreshing the image. Which version of OS X and Safari are you running?
David Alison said…
@Dennis: FYI, I'm running Safari 3.1.1 and OS X 10.5.2 on both my machines.
Anonymous said…
Ah, so you did. Swept right past that. A quick search on Google for something similar with Tiger didn't yield much. Just might have to take the plunge and upgrade. (Would rather apply the $ to a new Mac with Leopard preinstalled, but oh, well.)
Unknown said…
I like wundergrond for weather as well, but Radar in Motion is an official dashboard widget that uses the weather channel radar for the same thing.
David Alison said…
@William: Thanks man - I didn't even see that one yesterday when I was looking for a weather radar widget. I still like the Wunderground map since it's larger but Radar in Motion is pretty slick, and covers areas outside the US nicely.
Anonymous said…
I'm the biggest weather fanatic I know so it's great to see others on here!

The NAtional Weather Service has a fantastic widget for OS X as well, check it out.
@matt: Web clipping is a Leopard/Safari only tech. Sorry dude!

Dashboard Web Clip

Anonymous said…
For those of you using Radar In Motion, double clicking on the map in Dashboard makes it bigger. That doesn't improve the image quality, but it does make it easier to see!

BTW, Radar in Motion does NWS as well as WEather Channel maps.

And it works in Tiger!
Anonymous said…
Here's a tip for keeping widgets open without keeping the dashboard active:

Open the terminal and type "defaults write devmode YES" without the quotes and all on one line.

Now click and drag a Dashboard widget and close the Dashboard while still clicking the widget. The widget will stay active. To move it back to the Dashboard "dimension", click and drag then open the Dashboard and release.

ProMo~ said…
I love & interest Mac.
and I have macbook. ^^

Your blog is very useful for me and
make be happy!

I'm Korean. So English is not mother tongue.

Your blog is improve my English Level.

HaHa Thank you~

I hope your nice story is continue.

ps. If your OK, Could you please fix my sentences.
David Alison said…
@P Ro Mo: Don't worry, your comments come through fine and your English is very good. I'm glad you are enjoying this blog. According to my web site logs I get a lot of people from Korea reading this blog so I'm glad to see it helps.

Best Regards,

Anonymous said…
If I can add to your instructions... go to the url provided for the Radar Mosaic, select your region map, and once there,enter your zip code and once you have your area, animate it, then zoom in. Once you have the "close up" of your area that you want, click on the scissor icon in Safari and follow the rest of the instructions.

Up close and personal...

Russ W
David Alison said…
@Russ W: Great tip man! I've set up my local radar as well now. Looks like we've got a series of T-Storms headed our way.
Anonymous said…
fyi... a useful applet is Amnestywidgets, it turns most any Dashboard Widget into a standalone application... to put in your dock, or wherever for quick direct access.



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