Op-ed | The costs of extreme weather and climate are soaring. Commercial space data should be a bigger part of the solution29 Jul 2021, 13:28 UTC
Weather forecasting has made steady progress during the past several decades, yet the financial costs of extreme weather are staggering and getting worse. Part of the problem is that forecast improvements for the most impactful types of weather, including hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and winter storms, have been slower to materialize, often resulting in fluctuating forecasts and large uncertainties even at short lead times.
To reverse this troubling trend, traditional approaches to advancing the space-based and in situ observations, models, and decision tools that drive weather forecasts and warnings must be re-imagined.
Last year the world suffered $268 billion in economic losses from weather disasters, according to insurance broker Aon. In the U.S. alone, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates severe weather and climate events such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires cost $98.9 billion in 2020, and a total of $243.3 billion from 2018 to 2020. Already in 2021, a Texas economic research firm projects the February winter storm that collapsed the state’s electric grid could cost more than $200 billion.
Behind these astronomical costs are weather forecasts that have gradually improved over time through an international collaboration of the public, private and academic sectors that has built a ...