5.4 Integrated Real-time Weather and Messaging Platform for Situational Awareness

Wednesday, 25 January 2017: 2:15 PM
615 (Washington State Convention Center )
Nicole L. Homeier, Understory, Inc., Somerville, MA; and A. Kubicek, E. Hewitt, K. E. Willmot, and R. S. Bussman

In this presentation we discuss a new platform that integrates real-time severe weather data with a messaging application. Understory’s web platform brings together watches, warnings, advisories, thunderstorm outlooks, hail, precipitation, lightning probability, real-time data from Understory-enabled metros, and more. This platform gives users an up-to-the minute view of conditions that could cause property and other damage, and allows tailored messages to be sent out to appropriate groups.

Understory is creating a revolutionary type of data from its ground-truth network of proprietary weather sensors called RTis (real-time instruments). These sensors deliver roof-level measurements of hail and wind impacts. This is crucial information for groups that need to monitor property and infrastructure damage. Current systems do a poor job of tracking and predicting where severe thunderstorm damage occurred. We are reliant on radar estimates and spotter reports to identify damaged areas. The current stations in the Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) network are unable to detect and report on hail, one of the main perils in supercell storms. Spotter reports only provide size estimates of hail, but the damage potential of a hailstorm is dependent on the velocity, composition, impact angle, and number of hailstones. Understory Weather manufactures and installs weather stations that measures the force and direction of every single hailstone that hits it. To ensure that hailstones are not missed, the stations take samples at over 3kHz, providing a high temporal resolution to use while reconstructing a storm's progress. The stations also measure wind, temperature, humidity, rain, and pressure. By measuring the force that is applied to the station by hail and wind with such high temporal resolution, the stations are able to construct a much more accurate picture of the damaging power of a given storm.

Understory Weather has sensor networks in Kansas City, Dallas, Denver, and St. Louis, covering the highest population centers of these metro areas with stations spaced every one to five kilometers. By blanketing a metro area with these stations, we can get a better measurement of how mesoscale systems affect a city, accurately determine where hail fell, and assess the potential damage from the storm. Data from the micronets is combined in real-time, providing a current picture of the conditions in those metro areas. Due to the density of the micronets, clear and accurate geospatial information can be assembled in real-time. Most mesonets are too widely spaced to capture the erratic fall of hail during storms and even to capture the spatial granularity of winds at surface levels. Deployed much more densely, micronets can contribute a necessary data layer for catastrophe and response planning. Understory data is accessed through a web platform that integrates other sources of valuable information for incredible situational awareness. Severe weather alert messages can be pre-configured and trigger for users in affected areas. We will discuss perils supported nationwide as well as targeted alerting in Understory-enabled metros. We’ll also discuss how the real-time data can be accessed through the Understory API and is complimentary for academic research purposes.

The potential applications of real-time micronet data in promoting a weather-ready nation is vast, ranging from rapid response of emergency personnel, to more effective staging of insurance catastrophe response teams, to short-term wind forecasting for utility outages.  A platform integrating real-time views of severe weather along with messaging capabilities is an ideal setup for protecting life and property.

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