“Satellites-R-Us”

GOES-16_PA_RGB

(Note: GOES-16 data are not considered operational and should not be used for official analysis or forecasting purposes)

This week the annual gathering of weather satellite geeks (of which I used to be) are in New York City at the City College of New York talking about all the neat new things we can see with GOES-16 (formerly GOES-R), polar orbiting satellites, and I’m sure commercial satellite data acquisition is also being discussed (now that Congress ordered NOAA to purchase more and more commercial satellite data for their operations).

In a few weeks, one of the major weather associations (American Meteorological Society) as well as National Weather Service partners (I represent both) will be back in the “birthplace” of satellite meteorology: Madison, Wisconsin. I’m sure we will be talking about GOES-16, geeking out at the cool new imagery and products at the AOS building and “the CAVE”, and having many beers with the researchers at UW that provide us with these magical products used to look for everything from forest fires to volcanic ash in the air to clear air turbulence to night time lights.

As a meteorologist and manager in the private sector, I’m especially excited to talk to my NOAA colleagues about the advances in IT and commercial data buys. Our intent is not to “take over” NOAA’s role as the supplier of hardware and data, rather act as a partner to better our respective missions and save lives and property.

Have fun in NYC and I’ll see many of you in a few weeks in Madison. Save me a stool at the Great Dane Pub!  -bh

What is the next weather “moonshot?”

CancerMoonshot

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

Weather and Augmented Reality?

I’m going out on a limb here and talk about an idea I’ve been thinking about. I’m not the first to come up with this, but other people in my field have started talking about it.

How can the Weather Enterprise take advantage of AR and VR?

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I love to follow tech blogs and on my daily (one our each way, yes, you read that right) commute, I listen to a variety of “pod” casts. (I use Overcast. Not because it has a “weather-y” name, but it’s my favorite podcast grabber and player). In 2017, the talk is all “AR” and “VR”. AR really took hold in 2016 with “Pokemon Go” which my kids played with for about a month before going back to Minecraft and Roblox (BTW, Roblox, if you create a VR world then you’ll have my daughter hooked).

We love maps and displays in the weather enterprise. What would we have if we didn’t have a CONUS map with a nice satellite loop, radar mosaic, observations and NOAA SPC convective outlooks?

But…what if we could hold up our phone and see 3 or 4 dimensional wind patterns? I’m not a golfer, but what if a golfer about to tee up a drive wanted to see the realtime wind patterns to help align his/her shot? Or the fishing boat captain seeing how far he is from the SST gradient/canyon? Storm chasers aligning their viewfinders with the best convective initiation? My windshield popping up a “hazard ahead” alert showing me the bearing and distance from when I’ll drive into a snow squall? (Would that have saved lives and crashes on I-83 south of York, PA last winter?)

Of course there are challenges with respect to processing “real time” data, to layout in a 3D or 4D display, and what people would actually use (someone asked “Why would we need to see it on the screen if we can see the rain approaching with our own eyes?). We are challenged enough to get the right information to people (phone alerts, apps, sirens, etc). Would this be just another complicated layer of information?

 

“On This Day”

So Facebook has a cute little feature (probably lifted from the “Timehop” app) where you get to browse your posts from any single day a year, 2, all the way back to when you first joined Facebook. It’s fun, and it reminds me of my ex’es but also gives me glimpses into when my kids were still in diapers.

Today, June 29th, we look back 5 years ago to “The Derecho” that swept across the Mid-Atlantic. I was living in Northern Virginia (Reston) at the time, and what I remember from it is that it knocked out Amazon’s East Coast data center and brought some websites and apps offline. Here’s the Unisys radar base reflectivity mosaic of the storm:

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