Extreme Weather And The Challenges Of Predicting It


If you are living in North America, you may be familiar with a half-hour news program that comes on daily, Monday through Friday on ABC network television. The program, titled “World News” covers pertinent local and global events of the day, and each day there’s a brief segment that lasts about three minutes. This short segment provides details of the major weather event of the day.


It seems that in the USA there is some major climatic event, be it snow, rain, flood, tornado, hurricane, mud slide, bad case of gout, etc., to report about daily. Of course, each event is accompanied by a certain degree of physical, financial and psychological damages. Be that as it may, one may question the relevance of these events in terms of all the major advancements made in the field of meteorology. In other words, in the 21st Century, why are we not able to predict these weather events more accurately?

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What follows is a question-and-answer session submitted to Sensors Online from Carr Astronautics, a science and technology firm working in the NASA, NOAA, and international space arenas, with an emphasis on atmospheric remote sensing. Posed with five questions, founder and CEO of Carr Astronautics founder and CEO Dr. Carr provides insights into the current state of affairs.


1. What are the biggest challenges with how we predict weather today?


Today, weather predictions are largely accurate, but when forecasts go wrong, they usually go wrong in very specific local areas. What is needed is access to timely weather information that can be localized precisely, which happens to be the need we are addressing with the WxLiveStream product.


We really do a very good job in most cases of predicting the weather, but there are exceptions, that are especially important when there are extreme events, like severe storms and snow events where projection can be very difficult. And having the most up to data reliable observations are very important in these cases.


2. What key technologies and data systems must be integrated for faster and more accurate weather predictions?


There is a future envisioned where we have access to timely weather data from many sources, satellites, models, and in situ measurements that are all available in a cloud-based environment for ready access by forecasting systems.


Reducing the latency between the observation of weather by sensors including satellites and their consumption in models and weather models and their interpretation by meteorologists is very important. Quick and reliable delivery of data to modelers and forecasters is something we can improve. 


3. What specific information / insights will WxLiveStream platform provide, and how does Solace PubSub+ improve the efficiency and reliability of this platform?


WxLiveStream is all about delivering the most up to date current information possible from the GOES weather satellite to end users of that information. Solace PubSub+ is getting that information delivered to our subscribers with the least possible latency and with a high degree of assurance of receiving that information. We reduce the latency of delivery of weather information to the absolute minimum. This will be beneficial especially for real-time users in aviation and emergency managers dealing with extreme events where very second counts.


4. Can you contrast some of the sensors used in this system (i.e. active or passive sensors, or both) and methods of powering them?


Our product deals with the distribution of data from two sensors mainly. The first being the Advanced Baseline Imager, which is essentially a movie camera in geostationary orbit about the earth to take very high-resolution imagery of the weather. The whole picture of the earth that the satellite can take is roughly 22,000 pixels by 22,000 pixels. If you want to display every pixel on a 4k television, you would need roughly a 6x6 grid of 4k screens to display it all; it’s an immense amount of data.


The other instrument on the GOES weather satellite is the GOES Lightning Mapper (GLM), which is a new instrument. GLM offers the possibility of mapping the location of lightning that occurs when there are storms, which is a very important marker of severe weather. We want to know the lightning activity with the least possible latency.


5. What are the implications of this platform for other industries (ex. supply chain / logistics, air traffic, etc.)? How will this insight aid these companies in improving their own business processes?

We think there is an expansive market for hyper-local, very short-term forecasting of the weather. This is important for industries that are affected by the weather (i.e. shipping, air travel, etc.), and having that instantaneous intelligence about what conditions are in specific locations can be critical to these industries operating safely and in the most efficient manner.


We expect that this will open a whole new class of applications where real-time access to satellite data is very critical, but there are barriers due to cost of ownership of direct broadcast satellite reception equipment.




Dr. Carr is the founder and CEO of Carr Astronautics, a science and technology firm working in the NASA, NOAA, and international space arenas, with an emphasis on atmospheric remote sensing. Dr. Carr functions as both a scientist and a senior executive and strives to spend at least 50% of his time as a scientific leader on the programs within his company’s business portfolio.  Dr. Carr enjoys building mathematical models of complex systems and finding innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to complex problems. Dr. Carr earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Maryland, where he studied under Prof. Jim Gates and wrote a dissertation in the field of String Theory, while also holding a fulltime job in the NASA/GSFC contracting community. Dr. Carr founded his company in 1991 to help design the European Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) weather satellite, during which he resided in France for five years with his family. After returning to the U.S., he became a leader in the development of the GOES-NOP and GOES-R weather satellite systems. Most recently, Dr. Carr has become a Co-Investigator on the TEMPO mission, which is a hosted payload for remote sensing of the atmosphere from geostationary orbit. TEMPO will retrieve trace gas concentrations for O3, NO2, H2CO, SO2, and C2H2O2 species, hourly across Greater North America, at fine spatial resolution, to enable the study of the sources, sinks, and propagation of atmospheric pollutants. 


Dr. Carr is a member of the American Physical Society, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Astronautical Society.

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