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Weather analytics can play a critical role in climate change reduction

lightning struck on city at night timeThe application of weather analytics has moved from the weather room to boardroom to help businesses prevent, plan, and mitigate the impact of weather events, Renny Vandewege, vice president of Weather Operations at DTN explains how weather analytics can help to reduce and prepare for climate change. 

This understanding of the larger role of weather analytics and its application in industry sectors to protect people, operations or our planet is critical to fully shaping our climate change roadmap.

Conversations around climatological changes typically center around such things as increasing sea and surface temperatures, as well as the rise of extreme weather events. This is an increasing concern as a new United Nations report illustrates with climate-related disasters jumping 83% in the past 20 years with major increases in extreme weather events.

We have already seen some of the devasting effects of these changes with events such as an earlier and more active hurricane season, far reaching wildfires and heat waves.

But in addition to preparing for extreme weather events, we also should be discussing how weather analytics can be part of the solution for reducing environmental impact. The transportation, aviation and shipping industries are starting to see results by doing so.

Weather Insights for Transportation

Winter road maintenance is a balancing act. Treating roads too late leads to congestion, accidents, and even potential fatalities.

However, on the other hand, treating roads when it’s not necessary results in additional costs and there’s growing evidence that shows the chemicals contaminate drinking water and harm the environment.

Road pavement forecasting, which uses a combination of high-resolution forecasts, road sensors and environmental assessment of temperature influences on road sections, can reduce unnecessary treatment.

Instead of treating an entire roadway, road maintenance crews can choose to treat selected locations along a road where there are cold-spot road sections, or they may decide whether treatment is necessary at all.

Using this method, over 100 highway authorities across Great Britain manage the roadways and have successfully decreased costs and potential environmental damage. For example, in Northamptonshire where the highway team has demonstrated a significant reduction in the number of gritting actions across the highway network, there was a total budget decrease of 9% for winter maintenance using this method.

Reducing Aviation Emissions Through Use of Weather Insights

Weather analytics can also help reduce emissions in the aviation sector.

Historically, routing decisions have been made using worst-case weather scenarios which are more operationally restrictive, but using advanced forecasting capabilities will offer more accurate, detailed, and specific data for flight management.

Having highly accurate location detection for dangerous weather conditions, such as clear air turbulence, allows pilots to make smaller, calculated routing shifts rather than having to fly hundreds of miles out of the way to avoid a speculated event, saving not just time, but fuel as well. Specific

weather insights for long-range route planning, as well as for real-time tactical flight management mean the difference between not loading extra fuel as a precaution for alternative landing options, or circling an airport before eventually landing, ultimately contributing to a reduction of greenhouse emissions.

Shipping Industry and Weather-optimized Routing

The shipping industry is the leading producer of sulfur emissions worldwide.

Burning bunker fuel accounts for almost 90% of global sulfur emissions and the 15 largest ships in the world produce more sulfur each year than all cars put together. In 2020 the International Maritime Organization, introduced new regulations to combat the impact of sulfur emissions by enacting a worldwide 0.5% sulfur emission cap.

New equipment and alternative fuels will aid in this directive, as does weather analytics. Studies show that weather-optimized routing can reduce emissions up to 4% and reduce fuel consumption up to 10%, depending on the type of vessel, the season, and the conditions. Route-planning is established prior to voyage but is an ongoing dynamic process.

If there is bad weather ahead, sophisticated algorithms that utilize information about the ship and its capabilities and the weather effects on that specific ship can make numerous calculations and provide one or more alternatives for the mariner to optimize a route.

These solutions are global solutions and in today’s connected world meteorologists monitor global weather patterns and model for localized impact. There are dozens of different tools for making weather observations on the ground, in the sky with weather balloons, drones and airplanes, and above the earth with satellites.

The Internet of Things provides additional weather data, such as sensors in cars and marine buoys and sensors on turbines in wind farms. This robust data, combined with the confluence of ongoing weather and climate research and advanced weather models and technology, makes it possible to improve supply chain logistics’ impact on the environment.

As business leaders around the world act to address climate change and environmental impact, I encourage them to bring the science of weather to the table. Not just in the context of response and mitigation to extreme weather events, but also in how we can utilize our existing depth of expertise and application of weather analytics to reduce impact on the environment.

Renny Vandewege is the Vice President of Weather Operations at DTN, where he is responsible for more than 200 operational meteorologists across weather forecast rooms globally. Prior to joining the private weather industry, Renny served as the Director of the Broadcast Meteorology Program at Mississippi State University, advising and training more than 200 broadcast meteorologists in his time teaching in the program.

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