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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

AccuWeather Addresses the Storms of our Century

August 5th, 2015 by Susan Smith

“The business of weather is a storm of data driven change,” said Dr. Joel Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather in his keynote address entitled “Transformational Change Driven by Big Data” at the Esri User Conference 2015 held in San Diego. Myers added that, “We are reinventing ourselves over and over, to become the world’s most trusted source of weather information.”

Accuweather Portal

AccuWeather Portal

Weather information has definitely morphed over recent years, with maps that can be customized to the user’s requirements. With weather that has become increasingly unpredictable in the world, the challenge to provide up to the minute accurate coverage of weather patterns has also increased.

Tile data from AccuWeather allows users to see an accurate representation of the weather and “manage their business processes via the weather,” said Myers.

This certainly does seem to be the case for big weather events. Myers said that the key criteria for weather are the following: what was it and what will it be, how severe and how will it be presented, when will it happen? Where?

accuweather portal2

Weather today is the original Big Data, according to Myers, and has helped drive increases in data power.

In the 1940s, thousands of pieces of data were collected and plotted onto maps called weather maps. They were analyzed by meteorologists to create forecasts, including how terrain, water and land boundaries impacted the movement of weather patterns. Weather forecasters were among the first to use big data collected in real time. In 1960 the first accurate weather prediction was made 24 hours ahead of the weather event.

“I built a company by hiring the best forecasters, and got the best tools,” said Myers. “People know AccuWeather through their phone, and news.”

AccuWeather pillars for superior accuracy

– Most complete global real time data

– Most complete database of forecast models

– Most advanced and accurate forecast engine globally

– Skill added by expert meteorologists

– Focus on impact and value – output is in Esri GIS

– Uses all GIS data, crowdsourced, and all types of data.

In order to pinpoint location, AccuWeather uses Esri. The AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Portal is the realization of Big Data, and uses the Esri ArcGIS platform.

Underlying the platform is the AccuWeather Forecast Engine, that can analyze and measure data from temperature, humidity, solar intensity and more. It can compare a forecast with real time data, and the information offered by skilled meteorologists on the ground. “We can provide the best benefit by introducing a forecast like snow accumulations ahead of time,” said Myers.

For weather forecasting to be most valuable, it must communicate and focus – precise wording, displays, ease of use, and pinpoint precision, beside accurate data.

Myers has a number of engaging near-miss “if not for accurate weather reporting,” stories to tell.

A snow and ice storm last year heading for Georgia, would create major disruptions, and was predicted to shut down all rail, road and air travel for 24 hours. By letting people know about the disaster in the making, people could avoid being stranded.

The year before Hurricane Katrina the weather center had issued hurricane e-warnings for the area that didn’t happen. AccuWeather reported 50-70% of the city of New Orleans will be underwater and will be so for weeks. Myers said businesses who heeded this warning profited from this information and saved lives.

In 2013 severe weather was predicted near Chicago. Trains were halted before a tornado hit, and it tore out the track. A sold-out Pearl Jam concert was interrupted at Wrigley Field, and meanwhile an impending severe lightning bolt snaked across the sky just behind the stage. No one was hurt, and the concert resumed.

Myers also cited some statistics that suggest AccuWeather is “11%” more accurate than the National Weather Service, “7-9% more accurate than the Weather Channel. False alarm rate on National Weather service is 88%, according to AccuWeather.

AccuWeather receives 12 billion data requests a day, and offers services such their award-winning mobile weather app to help users make more informal decisions. With AccUcast, available on iOS, they can share their local weather conditions. MinuteCast provides a global minute-by-minute precipitation forecast for a local area, predicting two hours ahead.

AccUcast app

AccUcast app for iOS

At Esri UC, AccuWeather launched its newest feature to AccUcast. Now users can submit their local weather and hazard condition observations through the app’s landing screen, map screen and setting menu, plus the MinuteCast screen.

With a color-coded zoomed out view, users will be able to see both national and international weather patterns in the crowdsourced weather map screen. Each color-coded pin displays the reported condition with a weather-specific icon so users can scan weather patterns in a localized area.

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Categories: analytics, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Online, Big Data, climate change, cloud, cloud network analytics, crowd source, data, Esri

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