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!