Weather is Coming

There are some things you should know about me. Besides the fact that I boast a lot about being from Chicago and can absolutely be won over with chocolate and peanut butter, my favorite celebrity is Ginger Zee. While she may not be your typical red-carpet celebrity, she’s my inspiration (and just happens to share my birthday) and the Chief Meteorologist on Good Morning America. Ginger got her start out in the Midwest in cities like Chicago and is an author and influencer on promoting science, especially for girls, as well as mental health awareness. Why is this important you may ask? Science, and especially predictors of weather have been, well, unpredictable and unreliable for as long as people have been producing weather reports. Each year, thousands of people are severely injured or perish because of the powerful forces of nature that disrupt our lives. It’s 2019 and finally, there are digital technologies that are bringing us out of the stone ages. 

Today, digital technology can be a disruptor to many industries and I’m going to touch on just two ways that it has transformed weather; the first being a predictor, and the second being an educator

People use phrases like, “rain on your wedding day means good luck!”. Does anyone actually fall for that? Those phrases only came about because predicting weather is apparently really hard. While we still may not be able to predict the weather a year out, we can find ourselves more prepared. IBM’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System (GRAF) uses IoT to best make predictions and will be rolled out later in 2019. According to IBM, GRAF provides 200% improvement in forecasting resolution on a global scale. This can also assist in parts of the world that are not currently updated as frequently as the United States, for instance. Many countries have cities that are miles away from civilization and not able to receive pertinent updates that could severely impact their safety. With GRAF, the forecasts could be updated on an hourly basis instead of every 6-8 hours or more depending on your location. Because of the supercomputing technology through GRAF, the idea of data collection and IoT will soar to new levels. For example, there is even talk about IoT and understanding the connection between your car and your atmospheric surroundings. Imagine your windshield wipers giving a live signal and update about the current weather conditions in your exact area. This may pass into the creep-cool line, but I still think it’s very interesting. 

With more accurate forecasting, additional effects such as reducing power at plants will be a huge savings in not only power and cost, but also in assisting environmental sustainability. The benefits of what’s to come are seemingly endless, and can provide relief to many.  

Coming to the education piece, this is what I really crave. In general, our education systems need to be disrupted a lot more to make a real impact with the technologies that are offered today. The Weather Channel has begun to use virtual reality to test the effects of weather impacts. The Weather Channel calls it the immersive mixed-reality machine (IMR). It’s also being used as a learning mechanism and a warning method. Can you imagine seeing your house torn apart by the high winds of an incoming hurricane? The mixed-reality machine does just that. In what feels like a real-life scenario, the impacts are much more experiential for those taking part. People are much less likely to stay in times of disaster when they can see what the effects may be. The same goes for preparedness. IMR technology can show you what to watch out for in all forms of weather scenarios and how Mother Nature truly is not a force to be reckoned with. Because this technology uses augmented and virtual reality in real time with data from weather agencies around the nation, a meteorologist is placed in the midst of actual events. This not only deters others from taking unnecessary risks, but it also puts less risk on the news anchor. Have you ever seen news anchors reporting in 60 mph winds during hurricane season? I never understood putting their lives up to this detriment. The following video will give you an example of this amazing technology put in action.

Apps are now available that will assist you in being part of the virtual reality experience with the proper Gear VR. If you want a 360-degree view of storms and an actual experience besides watching your meteorologist on your weather station, this is a really cool alternative! With that being said, The Weather Channel wants to use IMR technology in up to 80% of programming by 2020, making weather a lot more real and accessible for all of us. 

With all this weather talk I decided to message Ginger Zee on Instagram. I’m still waiting to hear her thoughts about digital technology and weather, but if I get a response, you’ll be the first to know!


  1. I had no idea IBM’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System has been launched. I would love to see it used to predict how bad storms are actually going to be and give more accuracy to the storm watch. I know a lot of students pay close attention in hopes of a snow day, but many times the prediction is off and the storm isn’t quite as bad as we thought or significantly worse. I also agree that getting predictions for more isolated locations is extremely important. The increased data collection can help with conservationists and environmental scientists. With rising water temperatures and increased acidification in the ocean, knowing the correct temperature could be a big step in having a better understanding of how the world is changing. I think that along with using VR when bad storms hit, they could also be used to educate the population about more remote locations and show the changes that are or aren’t occurring.

  2. With IBM’s Global High-Resolution Atmospheric Forecasting System being released, I think this has great potential to help in forecasting, but also prediction during severe storms. I mean this in regards to preparation for severe storms. As someone whose house was flooded by Superstorm Sandy, the implications of wrong flooding predictions can have a great effect on how people prepare for these storms. Hopefully, improved predictions can help with this.

  3. This is so interesting! As “once in a hundred year” storms become more common, it becomes more important that we are able to both accurately predict storms, and get a true idea of their impact. IBM has used their technology to do a lot of incredible things, and it’s great to learn about how it can deployed regarding the weather. I had never heard of GRAF before, but can clearly see the benefits from such technology, especially as we think about places like the Philippines, which are considered to be one of the most exposed countries in the world to tropical cyclones. In the past 10 years, they have experienced the 10 most damaging cyclones in their history, but only 4 of the 10 deadliest cyclones, which is likely due to improved warning systems made possible by advances in technology like this.

    I think the benefits of IMR as a learning mechanism are enormous. I know plenty of people that refused to evacuate for Superstorm Sandy, as the weather forecasts had been wrong about so many other recent storms. Many of them lost their homes, or had to spend the night in homes flooded with over three feet of water. While the property destruction couldn’t have been avoided, the impact on humans and the refusal to evacuate could have been with the use of IMR, and would have allowed emergency resources to be allocated differently in the days immediately after the storm. I can’t wait to see how this is deployed, and the impact it will have in the future.

  4. I’ve always thought the same thing about reporters risking their lives to go out in these storms for visuals on how bad the weather is. I think this is a great solution to the issue as they’re able to calmly give you better and more informed information on whats going on. I definitely learned more information watching that video than watching someone stand in the rain while their umbrella flips upside down and they can barely talk because it’s gotten so bad. I’m also interested to see if the windshield wiper update becomes a thing in all cars, I think it would be a cool feature but also may be distracting for drivers. I was just talking to my roommate last night about she’s consistently up-to-date on the weather and keeping me updated so I’ll be sure to share your blog with her!

  5. I love that the weather industry is taking advantage of IMR. One of the coolest uses of it that I’ve seen was during flooding season: (cool stuff starts around 1:00 in). It’s such a useful technology for visualizing weather patterns that may mean very little to the average consumer. For example, I had no idea what flooding ‘up to 3 feet’ really meant in terms of damage and safety concerns until I saw that video. Obviously, I knew that was a lot of water, but being able to visualize that information had a totally different impact on me. Thanks for sharing!

  6. MiriamPBourke · ·

    Great post Melissa, I really enjoy hearing about technology applications in other industries. Weather is something we talk about everyday (especially in Ireland !!) yet it’s not something I would associate with cutting edge technology. I love these advancements, especially the use of IMR. My hope is that as predictions in weather patterns improve, smart home devices can take a proactive approach to heating and cooling houses, instead of a reactive one, as they’re doing now.

  7. I’m from Cincinnati, where the weather changes probably three times a day, so I relate to the crazy Chicago weather. (Maybe it’s a Midwest thing?) While the predictive side of weather would be immensely helpful in our day to day lives (see Miriam’s comment above), I see greater benefits with the educational side, especially as rogue storms become more common. What if another Katrina is supposed to hit and people in the storm’s path do not feel the need to leave their homes? I think the application of VR to these types of extreme storms will be life-saving once these perspectives are readily available to the public.

  8. This is a really interesting application of technology when it comes to helping provide more accurate weather forecasts. I appreciate that you included the video clip so that we were actually be able to see what it was that you were describing in action. Given the technological advancements that have been made in recent years, we were bound to see it moving into the weather and I think it will be a great tool when it comes to better predicting and understanding our weather. Like you and many of those who have commented mentioned, this could be huge when it comes to major storm systems moving into a given area and giving people a much greater understanding of what exactly they will be seeing. Looking forward to this being used more frequently in the very near future and seeing what impact it has.

  9. merrimju · ·

    That title… talk about eye-catching! When I initially clicked through to read your article I was hoping it would shed light on GOT (as a recent and very confused convert). However, I found your article fascinating. I think the most impressive advancement you mentioned is the use of IMR to simulate the destruction that can be caused to ones home. Personally, I remember when the hurricanes were being called for South Carolina and many reality stars in Charleston were using the impending storm to post funny stories to social media to grow their following. The reality was that the whole city was meant to evacuate and many lost homes.
    Perhaps if this technology was used then they would’ve acted instead of risking their lives and those of first responders.

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