What is the next weather “moonshot?”


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:

  1. Addresses a huge problem
  2. Proposes a radical solution
  3. Uses breakthrough technology

(source: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/moonshot )

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


Author: Brian Hughes

Program and project manager, meteorologist and technical team leader with experience in both the Federal Government and private sector including mission critical environmental satellite and weather operations, project and program management, technical proposal development, business operations, finance, user services and help desk management, data and product operations management, and global meteorological analysis and hazard mitigation. My objectives are to provide scientific, technical and leadership support in a team environment for sustainment and development of operations, requirements, data analysis and customer interfaces. My goals are to lead projects that will enable the seamless integration of environmental awareness information and decision support knowledge (atmosphere, water, land, space, climate) through innovative development including mobile applications, big data analytics, smart sensors, SOA, and cloud computing. Not during the day, I’m a Myers Briggs ENFP, dad, husband, stepdad, dogdad and catdad who loves the intersection of weather and technology. “Nerd!!” You’ll also find me somewhere near the water, either along the ocean, bays, or the rivers in the Shenandoah Valley. Any other time, I’ll be eating chicken wings and doing 12oz curls (which I need to cut back on, but hey YOLO right?!?) I’m in Lancaster, PA where I commute to Malvern, PA and lived in Reston, VA; Ocean Pines, MD; Eldersburg, MD; Alexandria, VA; all the way back to my childhood home just outside of Baltimore, MD (crabs, Old Bay, football, lemon sticks, and snowballs).

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