Big storms are scary. But truly cataclysmic is downright devastating. Economic losses from hurricanes, floods, typhoons and other weather catastrophes top two hundred billion dollars annually. The impact exists everywhere in industries ranging from tourism, agriculture, fishing, and air travel. In fact, natural disasters affect more than a third of global GDP. The scariest part of climate change for business is not the increase in costs, but an increasingly unpredictable world. Storms catch everyone by surprise.
While politicians and scientists spent the last couple of decades deciding if climate change is real or not, the business and tech world turned to a new kind of cloud for weather predictions. This Big Data revolution, with its massive storage farms and supercomputers, has spawned a rapidly growing world of a hyper-local real-time forecast.
Take Superstorm Sandy, for example. Three days before the storm hit, forecasters were able to determine landfall within 10 miles of its actual location. This allowed millions of people plenty of time to prepare and evacuate. Now roll the clock back to 1970s, when the National Hurricane Centre’s landfall predictions were only accurate within 518 miles. By 1990, that number improved to 345 miles, but that’s still a large area.
Big data can turn meteorologists into magicians. Even the White House is rolling into big data. President Obama launched a website as a tool to help web developers create the next breakthrough in weather predictions. Google joined the cause by committing 1000 terabytes of storage for satellite images and climate models. Vulnerable industries, big and small, now have access to a wide range of tools that monitor live weather patterns and make strategic decisions. These decisions might be something big, like routing ships to safe ports.