How to rein in the wrath of rain Gods?Sep 04
It’s sad that we can put a man on the moon but still suck at predicting the weather.
How can we rein in the wrath of torrential rains, and be better prepared even before they strike havoc disrupting city life? Well, when heavy rains lash the cities, causing traffic snarls, hit train and other services, we are forced to venture out of inertia. It’s time to wear the thinking hat, and think hard. Why can’t our cities get accurate and timely weather forecasts that matter? How are cities across the world deal with such a scenario?
Consider this…Life in Mumbai was thrown out of gear as the city received the heaviest rainfall of the season. Many local trains were cancelled or delayed, major roads got submerged and citizens returning home or going to hospital got stranded on roads and in trains – causing much public agony. Citizens were caught unaware till they hit the roads, only to get stuck.
Is there a way technology could have leveraged to prevent such recurring incidents that causes widespread public agony? Can our cities weatherproof the day to day operations to avoid such disasters? It’s great to know how the weather going to be on our city two days from now. But, what does it take to devise a system that can help better prepare to fight such emergency? The challenge is while traditional weather forecasting can predict general weather conditions with some accuracy, it doesn’t always give government agencies and utilities the kind of information they can take action on.
Predicting the weather for a specific location down to a square kilometer, and how it will affect the people and infrastructure there, is a tough computing problem. And it’s that sort of hyper-local forecasting that advanced technologies like Deep Thunder can provide. This can offer high–resolution forecasts for a region, ranging from a metropolitan area up to an entire state, with calculations as fine as every mile.
Often, when we think of supercomputing, our mind doesn’t immediately jump to weather forecasting. But, advanced supercomputing models can help our cities leverage much more short-term forecasts, predicting everything from where flooding and downed power lines will likely occur to where winds will be too high. Forecasts are made up to a day ahead of time. The reports can be customized to visualize the specific weather elements a business may be concerned about, such as wind speed and direction for a disaster management crew.
Significantly, what needs to be beefed up is not really about the weather. It’s about improving the effectiveness of a city’s weather–sensitive operations, such as emergency management, traffic management, asset management or logistics, and business continuity with very specific, up–to–the minute information.
Consider this. The government of Rio De Janeiro, implemented Deep Thunder in a new weather prediction center designed to help the city adequately prepare people for flash floods, which left over 200 dead earlier in 2010. Located in Cidade Nova, the center integrates and interconnects information from multiple government departments and public agencies in the municipality to improve city safety and responsiveness to various types of incidents, such as flash floods and landslides.
Consolidating data from various urban systems for real-time visualization, monitoring and analysis, such sophisticated technologies can provide City’s incident commander and responders with a single, unified view of everything happening around the city on a video wall, including surveillance cameras, maps, simulations, news updates, resources and information that they require for situational awareness.
Certainly, if only the city planners can know with accuracy what the weather will be ahead of time, they can more effectively plan effective travel conduits, avoid traffic accidents, logistics for a cricket match or a live entertainment show, emergency operations, including back–up operations. This necessities using weather analytics so as to optimize our citizen centric service chain by planning around adverse weather conditions, reducing delays, protecting and maximizing use of valuable assets, and streamlining scheduling. It’s time to act smarter, and act collectively to embrace proven technologies to beef up our cities integrated response systems.
Let not the wettest day leave us high and dry as rains are there to enjoy….
By Dhamodaran Ramakrishnan
The blogger is Director, Smarter Planet Solutions, IBM India/South Asia