Up in the Cloud: Technology and Weather Forecasting


“Hey Siri – is it going to rain this afternoon?” It’s a fairly regular question to hear these days, especially if the neighbours are preparing a barbecue and your washing needs hanging out. We’re device-deep into the smart age of instantly accessible information, and getting our phones to give us the heads-up on the humidity is very much part of that. Weather forecasting has embraced the digital age, making huge leaps over the past few years.

Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you

Observing weather patterns from orbiting satellites has been the traditional method of collecting data for decades. This meteorological soothsaying has been buoyed enormously by advances in said technology. So by adding in LEO (low-Earth orbit satellite constellations) data, from sensors just below the atmosphere, the breadth of scope is widened hugely. No longer merely pattern recognition, real tangible information about airflow, mass, radiation, humidity, temperature and pressure is harvested, ready for broadcast.


Local weather, nowcasting style

Going a little further still is ClimaCell, an American start-up seeking to provide the last word in pin-sharp accurate forecasting. Its tech uses data from cellular networks, making for a hyper accurate and acutely pinpointed local service. For business, farmers and travel companies in need of up-to-the-second weather information, it’s blisteringly spot-on predictions can even reveal information such as precipitation intensity.

From checking take-off safety for an airline to having to cancel an outdoor sporting event, there’s genuine value in that next level of forecasting – and that’s had insurance companies reaching for their cheque books to invest in this technology. Having such information to hand in adverse weather condition-responsible accidents is essential to settling payouts and claims.

Such thinking also lies behind ideas such as Riskpulse’s Sunrise project. The company have married weather predictive technology to AI. Why? To create and publish an ultra-realistic advisory tool that guides logistics companies through their supply chain journeys. Assisting shipments through potentially hazardous weather and dangerous climes, the company risk-assesses thousands of journeys every day.


Cleared for take off

It’s not just journeys on the ground that require crucial meteorological information. Aircraft, perhaps more than any other vehicle, are heavily reliant on weather data to enable safe travel across the skies. Incredibly, they’re also used to help with that weather prediction. Panasonic’s TAMDAR (tropospheric airborne meteorological data reporting) system relies on sensors fitted to airplane fuselage. It measures pressure, wind, moisture levels, and temperature; data that feeds back constantly to airports globally to assist in essential flight data that’s used to determine whether or not flight paths are safe to take. That’s weather predicting that saves lives, rather than determines whether or not you pack a rain mac.

Back to your neighbours tentatively unpacking their sausages. After all, the digital age of weather forecasting isn’t restricted to big players such as airlines and the like. Your average person on the street has benefited hugely. Thanks to our humble smartphones, we’re equipped to deal with all sorts of imminent weather changes at the simple swipe of a screen. With GPRS as standard and most smartphones providing their own in-built app, a quick peek at the forecast has rarely been easier. Additionally, there are apps which take the principle and add a little extra value. Programs such as RadarScope, for the less-than-casual twister chaser. Or perhaps Dark Sky, with its minute-by-minute rain warnings and promise not to pass on your personal data. All explode with comprehensive information, such as wind speed, humidity and pollen counts for hay fever sufferers.

It’s all a far cry from the day when you’d get a television presenter pressing magnetic clouds onto a map. Looks like sunshine again.

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