What Do The Symbols On The iPhone Weather App Mean? Here's What To Know


If you've ever used iPhone's weather app, you know there is an array of emoji-esque symbols available to describe a number of weather conditions. Similar to many emojis themselves, though, it's sometimes difficult to know what all the weather symbols on the iPhone mean. Apple is here to clear it up, though: The company released a handy chart on their support website clarifying what each symbol stands for.

The app, rather unappreciated, is truly helpful. Type in a city, zip code, or airport location, and instantly get the forecast for not just the day, but the next week plus. They'll give you information like the high and low temperatures, the times of sunrise and sunset, the chance of rain, humidity, and wind speed and direction. Then, you have the weather symbols. You think you have life figured out because a cloud with snowflakes is obviously a weather icon that indicates snow; but then you spot a symbol that's a cloud with a snowflake and lines, and suddenly, nothing makes sense anymore. What does it all mean?

Just like the iPhone's face emoji, we need a little help clearing things up (*ahem* I'm looking at you, "information desk person" emoji, plus the entire vast arsenal of iPhone's hand emoji that seem to entirely change context every other week). If you need some clarification, here's how Apple labels each weather icon — all 25 of them.


Hieroglyphics? Naw, it's the iPhone weather app symbols. Let's discuss. One would be excused for confusing showers with heavy showers, considering they're almost identical. They contain the same number of rain-y lines, but the heavy showers icon has longer lines, which — outside of iPhone speak — means "a bonkers amount of rain," as opposed to "just some rain." Of course, none of this is to be confused with drizzles or hail mixed with rain — which could mean the difference between nothing more than a bad hair day, and a black eye due to hard objects falling from the clouds. Capiche?

Revisiting the snow clouds, you'll see the cloud with snowflakes indicates scattered snow. The cloud with a snowflake and lines, however, means heavy snow/sleet — not, as I initially thought, snow that was falling really, really fast.

People have questioned the meaning of the weather icons in the past, and the iPhone's weather app has often been a target of criticism for a lack of clarity and what users sometimes perceive as inaccurate reporting — although, to be fair, on its support page, Apple says the information comes from The Weather Channel. They even offer a button that will take you straight to the source. So, what I mean to say is... blame The Weather Channel.



While Apple borrows from The Weather Channel, it appears as though The Weather Channel may be borrowing as well — from the government-run U.S. National Weather Service. According to Randal Olson, Lead Data Scientist at Life Epigenetics, Inc., the NWS does most of the grunt work, and commercial companies like The Weather Channel simply take that information and try to make it better.

In all seriousness, will any weather app ever be 100 percent accurate? Probably not. But this is certainly better than nothing.

If trying to decode all the icons on iPhone's weather app has your knickers in a twist, rest assured there are other apps you can download to see if they better suit your style. The Weather Channel has its own app, as does the NOAA — the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. There are countless other weather apps — many for free — although they largely have less notable names. Download and consult at your own risk.

In the meantime, if you're still looking for ways to curate your experience beyond the weather icons, Apple's app also allows you to look at weather for several cities at once — and curate those cities in a list based on priorities. "To delete a city from your weather list, swipe left on the city, then tap Delete. To rearrange the order of the cities on your list, touch and hold the city, then move it up or down to reorder it," Apple explains on the support page. Once a city is added, you should be able to swipe right through your selected cities and get a glimpse at the forecast of them in the order you arranged them in — perfect for traveling, or checking up on friends and relatives in another area.

In the meantime, pack a warm jacket. And an umbrella. And sunblock. And boots. Just to be safe.

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