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Fascinated by the storm
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By Christine McGrath
IBM Market Segment Manager, System z
As I write this post, the skies are darkening, the local weather channels are buzzing with severe storm warnings and the National Weather Service (NWS) has confirmed a tornado in the northeastern part of the state. I am captivated.
For as long as I can remember, I have been glued to the TV, radio, internet, whatever, before a storm hits to track their movement and pick up any weather side-knowledge that I can. I’ve also been very interested in the ‘after-math’ and how regions are able to recover from the storms. The effect that storms can have on civilization is sometimes unbelievable. Take, for instance, Hurricane Sandy. This massive storm caused $70 billion in economic and $19 billion in insured damage. The region is recovering with the help of Swiss Re who is preparing the state of New York for these types of storms and helping to rebuild lives and the city in a sustainable and resilient way.
This past weekend, one of my all favorite movies from growing up was on TV – Twister. During the film, a team of storm chasers attempts to place “Dorothy”, a revolutionary measuring device, in the path of several powerful tornados to collect and analyze critical data points so they can better predict the behavior of the storms – to give better warnings and help safe lives.
As seen with Hurricane Sandy, weather certainly can be dangerous and impactful – even a few hours’ warning can mean the difference between life and death. Being able to accurately predict the activity of a storm – as the storm chasers team in the 1996 film Twister hoped to do – or of weather in general is crucial. The Met Office, based in the UK, collects over 10 million weather observations per day and uses advanced atmospheric models to deliver 4.2 million forecasts to different businesses across all sectors everyday! An independent report estimated that these forecasts helped to save as many as 74 lives per year.
Most recently, in December 2013, southwest London saw the longest, most intense storm surge in 60 years – resulting in extreme flooding across the region. The Met Office broadcasted early, accurate severe weather reports through multiple channels four days before the storm even formed! This gave citizens a great opportunity to prepare for the storm. The impact from the storm surge was devastating; however, hundreds of thousands of properties were protected and lives were saved through early warning and flood defenses. You can check out the complete story of the storm, its impact, and the technology enables the Met Office to develop techniques for modern forecasting by visiting the Met Office Engines of Progress landing page.
Check out all of the Engines of Progress Blogs: