Panasonic Claims to Have Developed World’s Best Weather Model

The private weather forecasting business is one that has been growing over the last two decades, with the weather forecasting industry now thought to be worth as much as $6 billion in the US alone. Regardless, these firms rarely collect their own weather data, instead repackaging modeled forecasts and government-collected weather data constructed by supercomputers across the world such as the ECMWF center in Europe.

Now, Panasonic wants to join the weather forecasting party. Neil Jacobs, chief scientist for Panasonic Weather Solutions spoke exclusively to Ars Technica, where he discussed the 11,000-core supercomputer that the company had been running to predict the weather for the last few years. He even makes the bold claim that the model developed by PWS had been outperforming the American Global Forecasting Model (GFS) for years, but was finally becoming competitive with the ECMWF model, which is considered the gold-standard for forecasting models.

Panasonic’s claim to accuracy uses one of the most widely recognized metrics for model accuracy, “anomaly correlation” at the 500mb level of the atmosphere over 30 days. According to Jacobs, the PWS model scores .926 on this scale, compared to .923 for ECMWF and .908 for the GFS, where a higher value is better. If this is to be believed, a small team of only 5 weather modellers, 5 software engineers and around 20 field experts on contract from universities have managed to trump some of the best government weather forecasting services in the world. Not everyone who works on the team shares Jacobs’ absolute confidence in their achievement quite yet but if it is true, then it is truly extraordinary.

The key to Panasonic’s advantage in weather modelling stems from their use of data collected by aircraft. Since the 90s, TAMDAR systems have been fitted to the majority of US airlines by a firm called AirDat, who were acquired by Panasonic Avionics in 2013. These TAMDAR systems are still fitted to aircraft around the world to this day and allow Panasonic to collect data on all levels of the atmosphere as planes ascend and descent to take off and land. While Panasonic hand over much of this data to government weather centers, much of the highest resolution data is kept by them, allowing them to power up their forecasting model.

Whether the PWS model is truly capable of outdoing even the ECMWF may become more apparent over time, with Panasonic appearing to have a clear commitment to continuing development. It is certainly a bold move for a private company to move into a sector almost entirely dominated by government organizations, but perhaps this could just be what weather forecasting needs to move to even more accurate predictions.

A Visual Photographic Collage Of China’s Air Pollution

China’s air quality is poor to say the least, recent reports of families having to use an air purifier in their own homes to avoid breathing the air is quite shocking. The atmosphere in China has become worse over time to the point whereby it is difficult to recall a situation when the countries skies were not full of pollution, luckily, China and its Weather Network has produced a visual representation and it’s certainly worth a look.

Below is a series of snaps which has been stitched together and conveys the Beijing sky conditions most for most of the time in 2015, it is quite revealing when you consider how toxic the pollution is and is particularly evident when you look at images labelled 2015-12-1 and 2015-12-25.    

Image Below appears to be a colour chart of images that represent around 300 days of 2015, how do I know? yes I did count them and I came to around 290 days which I rounded up to 300, so give or take it is close to a year in total. The image also conveys the levels of extremes that exist and how it can be a danger to anyone’s health.

Below is an image which is quite fascinating, the sky here looks pretty natural and there is a good reason for this,  “during the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War and the World Anti-Fascist War commemoration of the 70th anniversary of victory” celebrations, the government  imposed air “quality protection measures”, this included a shutdown of factories and a ban on cars and high emission facilities. The result was a dramatic change that started from August 20th and continued until August 24th, 2015.

These images are interesting because tech has been used to document a hot topic climate issue in today’s world.

Image courtesy of geonews

BBC and Met Office Experiences A Stormy End

After the poor weather we’ve had recently, it seems that everyone’s attention has been turned to weather forecasts to scope for a break of sunshine or even just a stop to the rain and thunderstorms. Today marks a day in history, when the BBC leaves the weather forecasting capabilities of the Met Office for an overseas option of either the MeteoGroup from the Netherlands or MetService from New Zealand.

The BBC has been using the information supplied by the Met Office for 93 years, ever since the first bulletin back on November 12, 1922. The Met Office says it will still provide severe weather reports to the BBC, but all other weather information will be provided by another service.

It’s not entirely clear why the split has come to pass, but it could be due to the constant monetary restraints and the BBC has been forced to source a cheaper provider to cut the overall company spend. This contract drop would be a devastating blow for the Met Office which is currently undergoing a massive venture to produce one of the world’s most powerful weather forecasting supercomputers. This build will be expected to be capable of around 16 petaflops and a grand total of £96 million.

Two statements have been released, one by both companies which show different feelings towards the split:

BBC Spokesperson, “Our viewers get the highest standard of weather service and that won’t change. We are legally required to go through an open tender process and take forward the strongest bids to make sure we secure both the best possible service and value for money for the licence fee payer.”

Met Office operations director, Steve, Noyes, “Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life. This is disappointing news, but we will be working to make sure that vital Met Office advice continues to be a part of BBC output. Ranked No 1 in the world for forecast accuracy, people trust our forecasts and warnings.”

This could deal a massive blow to the Met Office and seems to be another version of UK outsourcing for cost effectiveness. What do you think of the split? Will a foreign company be able to accurately monitor the UK as well as the Met Office has? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks to ArsTechnica for providing this information.

NASA Predicts the Earth’s Climate For the Year 2099, and it Doesn’t Look Good

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has just peaked at a whopping 900 parts per million, and the daily maximum temperature in the US exceeds 40oC. That’s our planet in the year 2099, according to 21 different climate models produced by NASA. For comparison, the average highest temperature in the US right now rarely exceeds 30oC (86oF), and the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million this year.

The data, released last week, was born out of the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) project, which monitors the planet’s climate in immaculate detail, tracking weather, temperature, flood and drought patterns daily, down to individual cities and towns around the globe.

Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist, said, “NASA is in the business of taking what we’ve learned about our planet from space and creating new products that help us all safeguard our future. With this new global dataset, people around the world have a valuable new tool to use in planning how to cope with a warming planet.”

Though NASA’s prediction seemingly doesn’t mark a steep increase in temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels – readers of this article may only see an increase in average temperature by a couple of degrees in their lifetime – it does point to a slow-boiling catastrophe for mankind should the trend continue.

NASA says of the NEX project:

This NASA dataset integrates actual measurements from around the world with data from climate simulations created by the international Fifth Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. These climate simulations used the best physical models of the climate system available to provide forecasts of what the global climate might look like under two different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios: a “business as usual” scenario based on current trends and an “extreme case” with a significant increase in emissions.

The NASA climate projections provide a detailed view of future temperature and precipitation patterns around the world at a 15.5 mile (25 kilometer) resolution, covering the time period from 1950 to 2100. The 11-terabyte dataset provides daily estimates of maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation over the entire globe. 

NASA’s NEX dataset is available for download here.

Thank you Gizmodo for providing us with this information.

Jaguar Working on Self-Learning Smart Car Personal Assistant

There have been a lot of talks about smart cars and their ability to make driving a lot safer suing self-driving technologies in order to eliminate human distractions and error from roads. There will even be a time where drivers can even send text messages, video call and browse the internet, but that time is still far away. Until then, Jaguar seems to have designed a piece of tech of its own for the Land Rover to make driving a lot safer, namely the Smart Assistant.

It is said that the Smart Assistant is able to identify the driver of the car based on a smartphone and learns his or her driving style and in-vehicle habits. The information is then ran through an algorithm which keeps track of background information, such as your calendar, traffic conditions and current weather, in order to predict and handle a variety of non-essential tasks. The Smart Assistant even starts before the driver enters the car, adjusting the seat, mirrors and steering wheel based on the individual’s likings.

Once the Smart Assistant learns the driver’s behavior behind the wheel, it can then handle tasks and perform small vehicle adjustments. For example, if a person calls his or her boss each morning, the Smart Assistant is said to ask you if it can initiate a call with your boss. The same goes when running late for work, having the Personal Assistant prompting if you would like to send a text message and notify about you being late.

There are a variety of activities which Jaguar’s Personal Assistant could help you behind the wheel, though the company states that the technology is currently in the works with no known release date planned. An interesting and unique feature present in the Personal Assistant’s design plans is the fact that Jaguar intends to make the tech cloud-based, meaning that if you want to rent a Jaguar when abroad on a business trip, it will still have your personal preferences available and in effect as soon as the car is available to drive.

Thank you Gizmag for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Gizmag