Ten years from now, people will likely use weather information unconsciously and much more often than they do today. This is due to a current shift towards personalized and demystified weather information.
The traditional weather dissemination that people are used to (i.e. public forecasts) don’t come close to delivering the specificity and detail garnered from commercial weather services, and general weather technology is improving at a rapid rate.
Because the technology behind forecasts is rapidly evolving, replacing traditional forecasts will be those that are on-demand and site-specific. As these forecasts will be personalized, some may be simple — using common terminology that relates directly to consumers' needs — while others will relate directly to more complex decision making, such as those affecting a business's operations.
It’s often difficult to understand what a 130 mph wind really means. What’s more, it’s not the number that matters, but rather what the weather will actually do to us, our loved ones, our homes and businesses.
Most people struggle to internalize risk, especially if that risk is presented in an abstract, mathematical way. Tornado warnings are consistently ignored because people tend to believe that the tornado will hit somewhere else. But if they had more concrete information on exactly how the tornado could impact their lives, they would be more likely to act.
Many of today's weather forecasts are already employing these "futuristic" ideas. They tell us if the upcoming weekend is good for a small family getaway, or if we should wait until next week. It tells us which days we can take our bike to work this week, or whether a storm coming in two days’ time might blow tiles off our roof and flood our basement.
Increasingly, forecasters are answering questions that go beyond weather. For example, when a storm hits, knocked down power lines can cause widespread outages. These outages can be very costly to utility companies. Therefore, these companies must decide whether to call in trucks from other cities to send to areas of power lines that could be damaged. Instead of being told about the possibility of high winds and storms in an area, they need to know where to put people in order to respond quickly if the power lines go down.
We at StormGeo have been tailoring forecasts for clients for years — answering the questions they are most interested in. Rather than asking, “What will be the maximum wave height,” we are allowing them to ask, “How will the waves affect my vessel?” Ultimately, as we expand on these customized, action-oriented forecasts with the use of machine learning, we aim to answer the question, “What does the weather mean for my business?”
Furthermore, rather than providing weather information to support business decisions, we will predict the impacts of those decisions directly. With the right data, we may eventually be able to calculate the impact a weather event will have on just about anything.
Thousands of people die every year in weather-related traffic accidents. Often in bigger cities, digital signs are displayed that accurately outline hazards, such as where the roads are slippery. In the future, this information could even be conveyed directly to vehicles no matter where in the world they are; alerting drivers (or maybe a self-driving car) about dangerous conditions depending on their current route. Some car companies currently offer in-vehicle communication systems that display weather information, but it’s often buried in the menu selections rather than popping up before or during a journey.
I foresee that before long, maps will automatically include forecasts when advising routes. This would allow drivers to adjust their routes or drive more carefully, without having to think separately about the weather.
Just as businesses can opt to receive personalized, timely weather-impact forecasts, this future of weather forecasting will apply to an individual’s schedule as well. The beauty in this future is the technology will remove the need for assumptions, allowing you to live safer, smarter and drier.