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Google adds weather layer to Maps

Google Maps just got a little more useful. The company announced this morning that it added a weather layer to Maps that adds a grid of icons showing current conditions across a city, region or the globe.

The feature is enabled via the drop-down menu at the top right of the Maps screen, which also contains the other layers, like those for traffic and transit. The layer only appears once a user zooms out to about the neighborhood level. A whole bunch of data points pop up showing weather conditions across the entire map. Additionally, a menu appears allowing users to switch between different units for temperature and wind speed.

As you zoom in or out, the weather layer scales with you. It’s a pretty slick feature and makes the integration of weather updates more seamless than trying to type in neighboring cities into a weather search. For someone traveling, charting weather conditions is extremely easy as they already pop up everywhere along your route. Even cooler, Google partnered with the U.S. Naval Research Lab to bring real-time cloud cover data to the map. The feature works best when you’re zoomed way out, as close in it can be tough to tell if there are clouds or not. While there are those who will surely find utility in the feature, it can be turned off when you zoom far out of the map.

Clicking on a specific icon brings up a little more detail as well as a four-day forecast. The data is powered by Weather.com, and the pop-up offers links to the site for both hourly updates and ten-day forecasts.

The new feature is pretty helpful, especially for anyone commuting or traveling. It’s actually kind of surprising that Google hadn’t already rolled it out, but with the integration of Weather.com and Naval Research Lab tech, it’s been worth the wait. Give it a whirl, and let us know what you think in the comments.