Spring equinox: Google Doodle kicks off a season of apps

The spring equinox has arrived with its customary Google Doodle. But spring is notoriously unpredictable. Thankfully there are a bevvy of apps to help you take advantage of sunshine on a moment's notice.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon
The sun breaks through clouds reflected in standing water as a runner passes on the oceanfront walkway on the beach at Santa Monica, Calif., after a storm front had passed. Keep these apps in mind on your next unpredictable spring day.

Today's Google Doodle marks the first day of spring — at least according to the astrological calendar. The spring equinox falls on the first day of the year that the earth’s axis tilts so that the northern hemisphere is angled toward the sun. But that doesn’t always mean that local weather gets the memo — despite above average temperatures today, a cold snap is heading our way next week.

But that is also why we love spring: its unpredictable nature leaves open the possibility for warmth not felt for months. In 2014, a slew of apps has made finding those elusive whispers of spring amid unwelcome precipitation a little bit easier.

Here’s how to use your smart phone to your advantage on an unpredictable spring day.

7:00 a.m.

Good morning and welcome to spring! Unfortunately, the axis of the earth forgot to coordinate with the weather when it decided to tilt into a new season, so check the Weather Channel app for the day’s forecast. Are you an early-morning-workout person? iPhone users can download Weather Run, an app that measures fitness and weather metrics, such as altitude, temperature, and humidity stats. Take a peek before you head out to make sure you’re prepared for the elements you may run into on your morning jog.

8:30 a.m.

After your morning workout, you decide it is nice enough to walk or bike to work. But the sky looks a little iffy. How will you know if rain is about to hit? Accuweather is here to help. The weather service recently released an app called “Minute by Minute” that tracks your location and auto updates precipitation predictions every five minutes. That way, you have a bit of a heads up if rain is headed your way and you have to catch a bus instead.

10:00 a.m.

So the rain you managed to avoid earlier has subsided and it even looks like a bit of sun is peeking out from the gray clouds that haven’t seemed to move since November. Want to dip out for a little mid-morning walk to a park that has been buried under snow for months? Open the Oh Ranger! ParkFinder app to check out what spots are nearby, plus the amenities that each park offers. You can also search by “things to do” such as bicycling, picnicking, or history, and culture. The great outdoors are just a tap away.

12:00 p.m.

You may already have popular dining app Urbanspooon, but did you know it can help you locate the nearest location to eat al fresco? If you type “outdoor seating” into the search bar, it will bring up a list and map of restaurants nearby that have outdoor seating. Plus, it lists phone number so you can call ahead to be sure the restaurant is setting up outdoors, in addition to the basic pricing, cuisine, and ratings. Let patio season begin.

3:00 p.m.

It is tough to resist the pull of a mid-afternoon snack, but the change in seasons can also bring a change in cravings. No need to hunker down with warm comfort foods — fruits and vegetables are the perfect match for a sunny, warm day. iPhone users can open up the Snack App from Everyday Health to browse snack ideas by cravings. Each option includes recipes and calories.

5:00 p.m.

Speaking of food, new seasons bring new produce, so be sure to stock up on the freshest spring fruit and vegetable offerings. Head to the grocery store and pull up the Seasons app. This app lets you browse fruits and vegetables that are in season, nearly out of season, and in season all year round, depending on your location. Or you can search by category, such as fruits, vegetables, or herbs. Once you figure out what’s currently growing, you can tap the “markets” tab and the app will show you where you can go to buy local, fresh produce.

7:00 p.m.

The sunshine has stuck throughout the day, and you’re thinking of getting outside before sunset. Why not bike? If you live in a city with a bike share program, download the app Spotcycle. Spotcycle pulls up a map of bike sharing locations in any city, as well as how many bikes are at each station, which makes finding and timing your bike far easier. If you don’t live in a city with bike share, check out the app Spinlister, which is like Airbnb for bikes: people list their bikes and you can rent them out for hours, days, or weeks at a time. Here’s how the app works: open Spinlister and you’ll see a map with your location, and all the bikes available for rent nearby. Tap the bike to find out more information about the ride, as well as pricing. Then, request a ride and wait for the owner to get back to you. Final step: enjoy your first ride on two wheels in months.

10:00 p.m.

Whew! What a day chock full of revisiting parks, munching on seasonal produce, and biking outside. Have you caught spring fever yet? If so, time to start planning spring and summer travel. Try out apps like TripIt, which combines all your travel logistics in one convenient spot, or TouristEye, which lets you build a wish list of destinations.

Weren’t lucky enough to have a warm and sunny spring day? Channel your inner Copernicus and download SunSeeker, which is “a flat view compass and an augmented reality camera 3-D view showing the solar path, its hour intervals, its winter and summer solstice paths, rise and set times and more and a map view showing solar direction for each daylight hour,” according to its iTunes description. You’ll know exactly when the sun is heading your way.

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