Climavision leads a change in global weather data from its headquarters in NuLu. This local startup has just celebrated its first year of activity by expanding the team and announcing new partnerships.
WHAT THEYRE DOING
Climavision website says they’re “rebuilding climate tech from the ground up,” which sounds like a lofty goal, but it’s really unfolding in practice. They start by installing radars across the country with the aim of improving forecasts by solving the main problem which is that there are not enough global observations to correctly initialize the forecasting models, according to the founder and CEO, Chris Goode. He added: “Our approach is completely unique at this point. There is no other entity deploying a nationwide network of speed cameras to really complement existing government speed cameras.” Government speed cameras are what you see us using every day on WDRB, and while there are plenty of them across the country, the map below shows you that there are gaps in their coverage. These gaps are what Climavision works to fill in so they can better see what the atmosphere is doing at any given time.
Louisville provided a unique opportunity for this business to grow and prosper. “I’m from Kentuckian,” Goode said. “So I’m very proud to grow and build a business here in Louisville. But beyond that, if you look at Louisville in terms of where we stand, we’re getting four very specific seasons here.” He added that the weather “is a part of every community across the country and certainly Louisville is no different. But we have a number of events here that can make everyday life difficult.” We’ve been thinking about last year’s December 10 tornadoes in particular, and we’ll come back to how that event informs the work they do a little further down the page. Goode also added that the entrepreneurial spirit in this city has been a big plus. “Louisville has a lot to offer. It’s a growing area from the perspective that there are a lot of entrepreneurs and they’re doing really good things,” which he says has been extremely valuable to him and his business in their first year.
Goode points to LG&E, UPS and neighboring agricultural businesses as reasons why Louisville was so attractive to this particular startup, as these are industries particularly at risk in bad weather. These local entities are where they first focused, and now they are bringing in partners outside of our Louisville community. “We brought in GE… Cargill is another customer of ours, the largest agricultural company in the world. And we brought in a number of energy customers as well.” As we envision a transition from energy to renewables, Goode points out that these are weather-dependent in more ways than one. “The transition to renewable energy is all weather dependent, but the demand for this energy is also often weather driven. Extreme heat events, extreme cold events, all of that is factored in.” He added, “Drones are a huge area that we’re working in now because drones all fly in the lower levels of the atmosphere where we have the most acute problems or deficiencies.” Which brings us back to what Climavision does and how it all works in these seemingly endless applications.
HOW DO THEY DO
“Our strategy is to review new datasets as they become available and position ourselves so that we can leverage them faster and more effectively than anyone else,” Goode said. “A lot of companies would promote the fact that they have a high resolution model. And that might be true from a map resolution perspective. But just like in HD television, if the underlying content that powers that HD television is not high definition per se, you always end up with a pixelated image (…) So what we can do now at Climavision is actually provide high resolution high resolution modeling resolution from a cartographic perspective, but this information is now supported by an equally high-resolution information grid that powers this model.” So how do they get this higher resolution data to feed into the model? Installing new radars (which we talked about above and which you can see the images below), in partnership with a company producing satellite data in low Earth orbit called radio occultation, and using existing data to feed their forecasting models which are “tuned” to receive this new information. Then they share this forecast modeling with their customers (image above) to help them make more informed decisions in the face of severe weather.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT
How many times have you heard one of our WDRB meteorologists say “the models don’t handle this weather system well” or something similar? Basically, Climavision tries to solve this problem. We will never be able to see in a crystal ball with 100% certainty what time will do next, but Climavision is trying to bring us closer to that goal. “We need to keep inserting new observations in such a way that characterizing what is happening now becomes very confident for the scientific community. Removing the uncertainties there allows us to predict further into the future with more confidence.” As a science, meteorology relies heavily on these forecasting models even though we know they will never be perfect. With more accurate forecasting models powered by better data, users can have more confidence in the predictions produced by the models. For Climavision, the immediate target of their forecast is now 16 days, but they hope to be able to look further in the next few years. One of the goals is to assimilate these new data and their modeling approach into seasonal and sub-seasonal climate models as well. Remember that weather is what happens a day or a few days at a time; Climate is the set of factors that establish what weather events are possible in a certain region.
As we discussed what all of this lofty thinking about weather modeling and data means for our local community, Goode said, “We’ve been lucky in western Kentucky, this area is actually pretty good. But as I mentioned, this central I-75 corridor has less than optimal speed camera coverage and we’re going to fill it in. And that’s important to think about because we’re all used to looking at speed camera information on your computer or on your phone, and you look at it’s usually two-dimensional, and the gaps are three-dimensional, so the further you get from a radar, the higher the beam is in the atmosphere, and when you associate this to the curvature of the earth, you have significant gaps not just here in this area along this corridor that I mentioned, but across the country, so this is one of our areas of interest here in terms of filling these blind spots. That’s why it’s important; because on December 10, we could clearly see the destructive tornado that attacked communities in western Kentucky. But if that same storm were to pass through one of the gaps in the first map of this article, we wouldn’t be able to see it so clearly and alert you to it so strongly. The hope is that by feeding more and better data into the forecast models, we would be able to predict that a storm of this intensity is likely in western Kentucky on a particular day. Maybe we can even narrow it down to a county or a city, and Climavision’s vision is to figure out if that’s possible and how to make it a reality. Everything from here to the heart of Louisville.
All images courtesy of Climavision