Master disasters

Track natural disasters and catastrophic weather with this free monitor and alert tool.

We've used plenty of weather-watching programs, but none quite like Earth Alerts from South Wind Technologies. This disaster-watching program monitors online information related to severe, extreme, and violent weather and natural disasters in near real time, notifies you about alerts and updates, displays satellite data and imagery, and even lets you view the event in images and video.

Earth Alerts has an attractive, colorful display that is quite easy to get started with. We first added our own location by clicking New Location and entering our ZIP code in the Search tool. Earth Alerts populated the relevant information fields automatically and displayed our location in the Locations box on the left-hand navigation and control panel. This panel offers three basic configurable overviews--Global, United States, and our locality--and several categories of events for regular monitoring: earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones (hurricanes), volcanoes, landslides, wildland fires, and severe weather. We clicked Update Now, and the program fetched the latest bulletins about a tsunami in Indonesia, a volcano in Russia, an update on Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii, two cyclone alerts, an NOAA tornado watch in Georgia, and other events, most of which also displayed maps and radar, and even opened a view in Google Earth when we clicked the buttons atop the main view. There were five earthquake alerts for our locality, all of them related to tremors 416 miles away, the nearest activity. We selected a volcano alert, clicked Images, and were rewarded with pictures of the volcano site. The automatic update, Google Earth launcher, and sound and e-mail notification settings were all clearly explained and easy to configure.

We're impressed by Earth Alerts and its ability to deliver useful, up-to-the-minute data and images of a wide range of global phenomena. It's easy to add any place on Earth to its Locations to monitor, and there's plenty to see and do with it, even when all's quiet on the weather front.

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