Huge advances in technology and science have been coined as “moonshots.” Derived from the days of Apollo and the “space race”, Google has defined a moonshot as: A project or proposal that:
- Addresses a huge problem
- Proposes a radical solution
- Uses breakthrough technology
The science and technology of weather has usually followed iterative development and carefully planned milestones. The first “supercomputer” used for weather forecasting, UNIVAC-1 (sold by Remington Rand, the forbear of my employer, Unisys); the first weather satellite, TIROS-1, launched in 1960; upgrading weather radars from the WSR-57 to NEXRAD Doppler Radar (also delivered by Unisys); to massive scale distributed computing and the launch of GOES-R in 2016.
I look at these advances akin to the ending of Back to the Future Part 3, where Doc supplied chemically enriched bundles of yarn which caused the locomotive to see sudden bursts of acceleration, getting the DeLorean up to 88 MPH where they were able to “see some serious shit” (my favorite line from that trilogy).
The Weather Enterprise has usually been a follower of advances in technology, while being a leader in the development of the science. For example, we’ve always had complex equations and software to churn through billions of observations, but it took the PC gaming industry and the commercial development of vector processing on GPUs that finally allowed us meteorologists to run those models very quickly (and that’s still an area in research mode, but companies such as TempoQuest are finally bringing that to fruition).
The next decade will be interesting to see what we can do with emerging technology, cloud computing, cognitive networks, machine learning, and AI. -bh