WINDS Of Change: Next Generation Of Weather Intelligence

Sep 30, 2015

A team of scientists and business leaders from the Desert Research Institute in Reno is trying to change the way businesses make decisions that may be impacted by extreme weather. Reno Public Radio’s Esther Ciammachilli has more.

On a rainbow-colored map of the Las Vegas Strip, scientist Andrew Joros explains the focus of the new WINDS platform, which stands for Weather Intelligence and Numerical Decision Support

“Let’s say I want a time series of any kind of meteorological variable over the MGM. You can pull it up like this.”

Joros right clicks on the MGM Grand and a series of data tables pop up, showing wind speed, temperature, solar radiation and evapotranspiration, which in simplest terms is the process of water movement into the air from plants. Using ground sensors along with data from weather balloons, WINDS is designed to give exact climate readings to a distance of just a couple kilometers.

“And so the WINDS platform because of its very fine scale can look at weather phenomenon in very discrete areas in very discrete focus.”

That’s Brian Spiecher, who helped lead the team of scientists that brought WINDS to life. It was funded by the Knowledge Fund awarded by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Spiecher says the point of the project is to pull weather to ground.

“The idea is that in the abstract, we’d think about a weather forecast it’s going to 73 and partly cloudy today. And you have to ask, well so what? “

Spiecher says WINDS examines how weather interacts with objects on the ground, and how this relationship affects businesses. For example, demands on a power grid change as the weather forecast changes. WINDS can help energy companies better predict these needs days in advance. And this information is highly sought after. In fact, the U.S. Commerce Department reports that weather data is the single most accessed government information by the public. A collective valuation of weather forecasts across U.S. households was estimated at just over $31 billion dollars. Currently, the sum of private and public sectors investments on weather forecasting totals just $5.1 billion.

Joe Grzymski, Ph.D. is the senior director of the AIC. He says WINDS makes Nevada a leader in weather forecasting technology and that this new platform should demonstrate that…

“…DRI and the state of Nevada are doing and investing in cutting edge research that is meeting industry needs.  You don’t need to turn on the news for but a few second to hear about problems with drought , problems with fire, and to know that we really need to apply our technical and scientific expertise to help solve these problems.”

Grzymski adds that the program has the potential to be a tool for workforce development in Nevada by using WINDS as an educational platform. Some of the areas for development include agriculture, business, economics, investments and computer software development.