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Wildfires from space

How data science serves climate science

Written by: Alexa Stone

As storms rage, cities flood, and wildfires persist, climate change impact is here and now.

Looking down from space, the consequences of atmospheric greenhouse gases are seen on every continent and from pole to pole. The death toll from 21st century extreme weather events exceed 495,000 lives. More than $3.5 trillion in material damages and losses have devastated entire communities.[1]

That terrifying scene does not have to be the end of the story. As awareness grows, the goals and planning of previous years are being funded. Climate change mitigation is underway. Mitigation efforts, now funded, are better directed and made more accurate using well-focused data sources like these examples:[2]

Solar array during storm

    • IMPROVED WEATHER FORECASTS

More data with greater detail from doppler radar, weather satellites, and buoys remains essential in developing forecast models. Modern radiosonde[3] devices, now with GPS locational accuracy, transmit from weather balloons, providing atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speed/velocity data.

    • WEATHER SATELLITE IMAGES

Real-time data, transmitted from orbit, shows where solar energy will be most abundant. Analysis of trends in that data predict cloud movement for hours in advance. When cloud cover is accurately predicted, solar power plants return greater effectiveness.

    • CLIMATE NORMALS

The National Centers for Environmental Education (NCEI) calculates Climate Normals[4] based on temperature, precipitation, and other climatological data from almost 15,000 U.S. weather stations. These normals bring greater accuracy to cloud cover forecasts.

    • ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV) SALES

Supply and demand both impact the optimal use of solar energy. The supply of that energy varies with cloud cover. Demand increases when EV’s leave the showroom. As manufacturers track and report that sales data, legislators fund the infrastructure and incentive programs to further the switch from fossil fuels.

    • EV CHARGING EQUIPMENT USE

Demand also varies with EV sales and the subsequent use of EV chargers.

When charger use is measured and geolocated, local authorities can place future charging stations where demand is greatest.

Online data from the NATIONAL CENTERS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION (NCEI)

The NCEI, a service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides a free archive of global historical weather and climate data. Daily, monthly, seasonal, and yearly measurements of temperature, precipitation, wind, and degree days can be as well as radar data and 30-year Climate Normals.[5]

The NCEI site brings powerful data search capabilities, free to all, through the Climate Data Online (CDO) tool:

  • The CDO search tool retrieves past weather and climate data by ZIP code, city, state, county, and other predefined areas.
  • Weather and climate information can also be retrieved for areas the user selects through an online mapping tool.
  • Other specialized tools access data about storm events, severe weather, climate models, and more.

SOURCES:

[1] EPA.gov
[2] TheGuardian.com — How data could save Earth from climate change
[3] intermetsystems.com — What is a radiosonde?
[4] NCEI.NOAA.gov — Climate normals
[5] NCEI.NOAA.gov — CDO Web

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