Weather prediction, as served up on TV newscasts, has long been criticized as a pseudo science and made the butt of endless jokes (Larry David, for example, likes to say that TV weather guys predict rain when they want to keep golf courses to themselves.)
But big data and advanced analytics may be changing all that.
According to an article earlier this year in Wired, “South Korea is upgrading its national weather information system with the goal of understanding weather patterns better and predicting better the location and ferocity of weather events. The upgrade being installed by the Korean Meteorological Administration (KMA) increases the agency’s data storage capacity by nearly 1000% to 9.3 petabytes, making it Korea’s most capable storage system…
“The KMA project dramatically illustrates today’s big data phenomenon and its impact on weather forecasting. Thanks to the rapid spread of sensors and satellites, and to the increase in computer number-crunching speeds, it’s possible to forecast weather changes more accurately and with improved detail–potentially saving thousands of lives and safeguarding property.”
Both established firms like AccuWeather and startups like Earth Risk are hoping to capitalize on big data’s potential to improve metereological forecasting. The line of ready customers includes not just governments but also private companies in energy, agriculture, insurance, and other sectors.
According to Outside Magazine, “While the National Weather Service (NWS) caps its forecasts at seven days out—when the reliability of its models drops off markedly—commercial outfits are basically unregulated, free to make predictions as far out as they like… [They] often bundle NWS data with forecasts purchased from foreign services. They sell this information to everyone from Lowe’s (whose managers must decide when to stock sprinklers) to utility companies (which need to plan for demand spikes in the power grid). It’s big business: a 2011 study found that weather variability affects the U.S. economy to the tune of $485 billion annually, and the commercial weather industry is expected to generate more than $3 billion in 2013.”
It’s not hard to see which way the wind is blowing…