ArcGIS Online

Map in a minute: Map weather using ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Living Atlas

According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm will bring multiple feet of snow to many parts of the West, stretching from California’s Sierra Nevada to the high country of Utah, Colorado, and northern New Mexico. The snows may eventually reach the Northeast later this week. An extensive zone of frozen precipitation of ice, sleet and snow is expected, which will result in dangerous travel conditions.

NWS weather map
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Make a weather map

ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World includes authoritative live feeds and other content that helps you learn more about current and predicted weather conditions. In this example we will:

Follow these steps to make your own weather map in a minute, maybe less.

Step 1 — Sign in to your ArcGIS account and open Map Viewer. There are two ways to add layers from the Content (dark) toolbar:

(1) Click Add, then Browse layers.

Add>Browse layers

(2) Click Layers, then Add.

Add layer

Step 2 — Choose Living Atlas from the Add layer drop-down.

Add layer from Living Atlas

Step 3 — Enter “weather” in search to locate the USA Weather Watches and Warnings layer. Click (+) to add it to the map.

Add layer

Tip: To learn more about any layer, click the layer title to View item details.

View item details

Click the link to View full items details to view the item page.

View full item details

Looking at the USA Weather Watches and Warnings item details, we can learn that the layer is a live data feed from the National Weather Service containing official weather warnings, watches, and advisory statements for the United States. The layer is updated every five minutes using the Aggregated Live Feeds methodology.

Click features on the map to learn more. There are multiple pop-ups that you can cycle through using the arrows at the top of the pop-up pane. The Events pop-up displays details such as type of advisory, duration of the advisory, update date and time, and a summary with a link to more information.

Advisory pop-up

Congratulations!  You’ve created a weather map in well under a minute. In the next steps the layer visibility will be changed to apply focus on specific data.

Step 4 — Open the Layers pane. At the top of Add layer, click the arrow.

Open layer pane

USA Weather Watches and Warnings is a group layer with 11 sublayers, with four visible by default. In the Layers pane, you can toggle the visibility for layers or remove unwanted ones. For example, to display only watches and warnings you can hide the Public Forecast Zones, US States and Territories (most Living Atlas basemaps include state and territory boundaries), and Coastal and Offshore Marine Zones. Hide the highlighted layers shown below.

Weather group layer

Below, the map on the left shows the default layer visibility. The map on the right hides the layers noted above.

Compare maps
View larger image


Apply layer filters

You can use layer filters to limit the visibility of certain features in the map, applying focus to what’s important to you.

Step 5 — View the National Weather Service watch/warning/advisory definitions. Decide which watch, warning, and advisory definitions you want to focus on. For this example, a filter will be created to focus on those that pertain to blizzards and winter weather.

Step 6 — In the Layers pane, select Events Ordered by Size and Severity. When a layer is selected, it is highlighted with a vertical blue bar.

Select layer

Step 7 — Click Filter in the Settings (light) toolbar on the right, then click Add expression.

Add expression

Step 8 — Construct a filter expression as follows:

a – Select Type as the attribute from the list.

b – Select includes as the operator from the dropdown list.

c – Choose the desired values from the dropdown list.

Create filter expression

Tip: By default, attributes are listed by Count. Choose A to Z to make finding specific attributes easier.

Sort order

Step 9 — Click Save when finished.


The map shown below is the result of applying the following expression:

Type includes Winter Weather Advisory, Winter Storm Watch, Winter Storm Warning, Blizzard Warning, Blizzard Watch.

Filtered layer
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Improve the map

Experiment using different basemaps and layer settings until you get the desired result. For layers such as Weather Watches and Warnings that draw above underlying features, a basemap with reference layers that draw on top of the layer (such Terrain with Labels) is a good choice. You can also change the weather layer settings to achieve the desired results.

Step 5 — Change the basemap. Click the basemaps button in the Contents (dark) toolbar, and select Terrain with Labels.

Change basemap

Terrain with Labels has reference layers which draw on top of all other layers. The basemap also has terrain which can be viewed below the weather events layer, which already has 40% transparency. In the next step, the layer will be adjusted to enable better terrain visualization.

Step 6 — Click Layers to open the Layers pane. Select Events Ordered by Size and Severity.

Select layer

Step 7 — On the Settings (light) toolbar, click Properties and scroll down in the Properties pane to set transparency to 60%.

Set layer transparency

By setting the transparency, the layer saturation has also been reduced. Effects can be applied to increase the saturation, without affecting transparency.

Step 8 — On the Setting toolbar, click Effects. In the Whole layer effects enable Saturation and set the saturation strength to 150.

View larger image

Step 9 — (Optional) You can also apply effects to basemap layers. Open the basemaps pane, open the World Hillshade basemap, then select the World Hillshade basemap layer and adjust the brightness and contrast to dim the brightness.

Basemap layer effects
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Step 10 — When finished, Save your map.


View map.


More information

There are other weather related maps, apps, and layers you can explore, browse Living Atlas to learn more.

For more information, see the following:

This blog article was originally published on December 17, 2020, and has been updated.

About the author

Corporate technology evangelist and advocate at Esri, focusing on ways to broaden access to geographic information and helping customers succeed with the ArcGIS system. On a good day I'm making a map, on a great day I'm on one. Email or connect on LinkedIn (


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