October 29

Integrating Weather Map Layers into QGIS via AerisWeather Maps

Update: Please utilize resolved URLs for the moment when following this tutorial, including specifying a time offset. We are actively exploring resolutions to known issues when using map tile URLs ending in current.png within XYZ tile layers.

GIS technologies have been revolutionizing the science of geospatial analysis since their inception. These powerful tools have been continuously and rapidly advancing to visualize and aid in solving problems. Here at AerisWeather, we use them regularly to model and test our own weather data and imagery, but also to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data in unison with our own. As with any genre of software that gains mainstream adoption for personal, educational, and enterprise uses, open-source alternatives have taken hold. QGIS is one of the most widely adopted among these. Today, we’ll walk through the basic steps of displaying an AerisWeather map layer on one of QuickMapService’s Contributor Pack of maps.

This easy guide will allow you to place AerisWeather Maps layers on almost any map projection as AerisWeather is EPSG:4326 compliant. The flexibility of Maps’ weather mapping layers will make qualitative analysis or neatly laying out a special projection of our overlays a breeze. This means that no matter what basemap you’re utilizing, so long as it conforms to popular geospatial guidelines, AerisWeather Maps can fit your use case as needed.


Step 1: Adding a Base Map (Optional)

Notes: This project requires an AerisWeather account. You can sign up for a trial developer account here. Maps has base maps available in its feature set, though we are assuming a use-case which involves a thematic map and utilizes Maps tiles as an overlay. If you are using Maps tiles inclusive of a base map, please skip to section 2.

Begin the process of adding a map layer to your project by opening QGIS – most recent versions will have a similar interface, but it is recommended to utilize the latest edition to ensure maximum stability and performance. You should land on an empty project file that you can load a base map on to. One of the quickest ways to do this is via the Quick Map Services plugin.

To do this, visit the Plugins Menu at the top of QGIS:

Visit “Manage and Install Plugins…”, and in the top search bar, begin to enter “QuickMapServices” and click “Install” once you’ve highlighted the plugin.

QuickMapServices is easily searchable in the QGIS Plugin Manager.

 Once these steps have been followed, you should be able to find QuickMapServices in the Web Toolbar. The icon appears as follows:

Navigate to QuickMapServices Settings on the dropdown once you click the QuickMapServices icon and select “More services” in the top tabbed bar, then click “Get contributed pack”. This will add the full list of QGIS-extensible base maps provided by this plugin to the dropdown when clicking the QuickMapServices icon. Selecting one of these base maps will automatically place it into your QGIS project file.


Step 2: Adding AerisWeather Maps Tiles

As mentioned, AerisWeather Maps tiles can support base maps, but can also provide flexible mapping tiles – from severe weather alerts to radar overlays. Once you have signed up for an AerisWeather account, simply place the URL for your requested tiles into “XYZ Tiles”. To do this, simply right click it in the left “Browser” pane and select “New Connection…” as follows:

Place your map tile URL in the “URL” field and provide a name for the Layer. You can find this URL at the bottom of the AerisWeather Map Builder page while logged into your account:

Once you confirm the URL and apply it to your map, you can begin transforming the layer to fit your needs. An example URL appears as follows:


Below is an example of the AerisWeather “Departure from Mean Precipitation” layer at 100% transparency, showing the AerisWeather Departure from Mean layer as well as the URL input field necessary to load the layer in.

Step 3: Manipulate your Layers

Incorporating a thematic base map from a source like the USGS or ESRI can turn Maps layers into powerful visual storytelling tools – for example, laying departure from mean precipitation over the ESRI topographic base map to highlight historical weather (in this case, precipitation) trends across varying topography and can provide a visual warning for drought conditions in agrarian south Georgia and highlight potential flooding and mudslide risk in rocky, mountainous north Georgia. Right clicking the desired weather map layer and selecting “Properties” provides several options for visually altering the display of the weather map layers. By selecting “Overlay” in the Symbology tab for Color Rendering produces a map similar to the following.

For another example, one can model with great accuracy the impact of the rain shadow effect and how the leeward side of the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado might be exacerbated by changes in jet stream position or prevailing wind speed and direction.

As one can see, the end result is a highly readable and impactful product. Aside from theoretical government and agricultural use cases for weather mapping tiles, the applications for utilizing AerisWeather’s weather map layers in your QGIS instance are endless – from research and development to driving decision making for the finance and insurance industry. You can utilize any AerisWeather map tile available – from tropical radar and storm paths to lightning strikes and forecast snow accumulation.

Utilizing a quantitative approach in QGIS? Explore the Weather Data API from AerisWeather, an advanced, robust API that lets you query historical, present, and forecast weather data points with ease. With JSON and GeoJSON outputs, the API can post relevant data directly into your geospatial database. You can view demonstrative applications here that highlight the robustness of both Maps and the AerisWeather API.


Sign up for a free trial of both or contact our sales engineers to get started today!

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