Hello everyone and welcome back to the Cognixia podcast. Every week, we dig up a new topic from the world of emerging digital technologies and share insights, ideas, information, stories, and more. We strive to inspire our listeners to learn new things and update their repertoire of skills to stay relevant and continue growing in their careers.
In today’s episode, we talk about something that becomes quite a topic of conversation at this time of the year, each year – weather forecasts. Come monsoon, most of us keep a keen eye on the weather forecasts to get some idea of when it will rain and plan our trips, commutes, etc. If we are stuck at work and it starts raining badly, we check the weather forecast to see if the rains are going to stop anytime soon then we can leave a bit later and go home safely. The cyclone season in the country starts before and ends after the monsoon, so we also keep an eye on those forecasts. From the days when we would all be glued to the television to watch the weather bulletin that came on about twice a day, with the presenter announcing the maximum and minimum temperatures recorded in the different capital cities of the states of India to today when we have weather forecast widgets on our phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, smartwatches, etc. weather forecasts have truly come a very long way.
To look at it objectively, the seven-day forecasts of today’s times are as precise as the five five-day forecasts used to be about 5 to 7 years ago. Now, it may not seem a lot, but trust us when we say this, it is quite a big thing, especially considering how swiftly and easily we can check the weather of any city in the world at any time for any time while being anywhere in the world. In the next few years, our ten-day forecasts will become as good as our seven-day forecasts are right now, and the cycle goes on.
Despite the massive improvements that the space has seen over the years, there is still quite a gap that needs to be overcome. There I still a lot more that can be done to ensure that people can access the right information at the right time and make the most of it. There is also a lot more that needs to be done to make the weather data more comprehensible and accessible to people. While it is very important that the weather forecasts be as accurate as possible, it is also critically important that the right weather data is available and comprehensible not just to the common population but also to the decision-makers in fields such as agriculture & food security, water, and resource management, disaster risk reduction, etc. There is also a need to have accurate sub-seasonal forecasts for weather and climate – will this be an El Niño year, has the effect of La Niña subsided, how much will the ocean temperatures rise, how will the pre-monsoon activity be, etc. need to get more widespread and accurate. There are bodies like the Center for Climate and Life Project that are working actively to make better weekly, sub-seasonal podcasts. We would definitely recommend checking out the amazing work being done as part of the sub-seasonal to seasonal prediction project, better known by its acronym – S2S, which is jointly coordinated with the World Climate Research Program or WCRP and World Weather Research Program (WWRP). The WCRP and the WWRP work together to narrow the gap that exists between the weather forecasts and the seasonal climate forecast. They are also actively working to improve the forecasts skills in that range while striving to ensure that the forecasts being made are useful to the different stakeholders.
So, what can technology help with here? Well, two main things where technology can be very useful. The first would be to improve the accuracy of the weather forecasts, and the second would be to make the forecast data comprehensible and accessible to stakeholders in different domains. Suppose you are a non-profit organization that works in the disaster relief space, like say you are a part of a disaster-relief team at the Red Cross. You usually need about a month’s lead time to arrange supplies and relief measures for say a flood. Now, if you get the right information in the month of April that there is going to be a major flood and cyclone on the eastern coast in the Odisha – Andhra Pradesh belt in May, you could get your team together, make the necessary arrangements, work with the government to evacuate the people and get them to safer places, the assets can be safeguarded wherever possible, and accomplish a lot more before the cyclone and flood actually hit in a month. Currently, you don’t get information that much in advance, and we also don’t have an accurate idea of where the cyclone will hit, will it fizzle out or get stronger, etc. There are reasonable probabilities involved in every forecast too.
Suppose, you are a farmer. If you had access to accurate forecasts for the next month and next season, you can plan when to sow your seeds, when to apply your fertilizers and pesticides, when to irrigate, how your water tables will be replenished, how to store your harvests, if you need to get sheds built, etc. It would significantly help you reduce the uncertainty, won’t it now?
One other thing technology can help us with in the weather forecast space would be to help build resiliency against climate change. With skillful forecasts, the population can be uplifted to be less vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and climate as well as enable them to better adapt to the changing climate.
We would particularly like to highlight here that while everybody understands the need to improve the accuracy of weather forecasts, not everybody appreciates the need to improve the accessibility of the forecast data. We can’t emphasize enough the need to package and present the weather information in as simple a manner as possible, something that the end user can manipulate and understand. Weather data serves a lot more purposes than for individuals to decide whether they should carry their umbrellas and extra polyethylene bags for their stuff or not. Some unique intentions and purposes are served by weather information. This necessitates the data to be segmented for satisfying these different purposes. So, accessibility through technology must make the forecasted data simple, readily available, as well as easy to apply to different time intervals, as required by the users. Technology should also facilitate the bridging of unforeseen changes in weather conditions.
Now for this, some of the important technologies that would play a major role, and are actually already playing a major role would include cloud computing to store and access data, the internet of things & connected devices to capture data, DevOps and containerization to develop the applications, data science and machine learning to analyze the data, and so much more. There are also a lot of indirect tech requirements here, of course.
What we can say with complete certainty is that the world of weather forecasting and prediction is a very interesting space and it is set to become an even more interesting space in the coming times. Weather forecasting has an unimaginably huge impact on the entire global population, on all continents, and everybody. Weather and climate do impact everybody after all, don’t they? The world’s food security, our energy usage, and reserves, and our entire existence are dependent on the climate and weather, more than we can imagine. If you ever want to do something that has a huge impact while making excellent use of your skills in the emerging technologies space, then we recommend looking for a career in the weather forecasting space, maybe?
So, with that, we come to the end of this week’s episode of the Cognixia podcast. Hope you enjoyed listening to us as much as we enjoyed recording this episode. We also highly recommend checking out our website – www.cognixia.com to see all our latest live online instructor-led courses. You can also get in touch with us on the chat function there, our team will connect with you right away and you can get all your questions answered quickly.
Time to wrap it up then, we will be back again next week with a fresh new episode of the Cognixia podcast.
Until then, keep working and hustling, your next leap in your career is not too far.