As I type this, I’m a football field away from dozens of homes, a family-owned bookstore, and a Dallas Fire-Rescue station—all destroyed. The warning sirens in this area of Texas went off roughly 10 minutes before an F-3 tornado ripped through over two months ago.
New technology applications could provide earlier warning signs.
Damage from extreme weather events, which are exacerbated by climate change, is expensive to clean up. Last year, 14 U.S. weather/climate disasters cost $91 billion combined, the most costly and deadly of which was California’s Camp Fire. This year has been much of the same, with 10 $1+ billion storms.
Finding tech opportunities
Entrepreneurial weather watching companies have embraced data collection and analysis. Dropping sensor costs + cheaper satellite imagery + improving AI-powered processing = the private $7 billion weather forecasting industry.
As the WaPo reported last week, weather forecasters are honing sharper prediction models and satellite operators are pooling higher-quality data. If these tools can complement the government’s, it could lead to better storm planning and safer communities. It’s a symbiotic relationship, sorta like SpaceX and NASA.
Academia is also getting involved in weather tech. In the last week alone:
- Oklahoma State and Nebraska-Lincoln researchers published research showing “infrasound” tech’s promising tornado detection potential. The team captured low-frequency sounds to detect an Oklahoma twister that conventional radar-based methods didn’t pick up.
- Rice and UC Berkeley scientists published research showing promising earthquake detection capabilities using undersea fiber-optic cables retrofitted with detection systems that use lights.
Bottom line: It’s getting cheaper to produce and analyze data. It’s also easier to build better sensing methods on top of existing minisatellites and undersea cables. These advancements generate spillover effects that let us more accurately keep tabs on Mother Nature.