Sunday, December 22, 2019

Thoughts on Blum's Weather Machine: Great account of a recent but unappreciated scientific miracle, combining massive data gathering, international information sharing and physically-based modeling

I read Andrew Blum's book about the weather with great interest. Blum explains how the simple act of picking up our iPhones to check the weather and then planning for how to dress or pack for a trip is a modern miracle of technology and a calculation that is unappreciated.

Blum goes through many aspects of this miracle. First, he talks about the history of weather forecasting and the early pioneers who could only dream about collecting massive amounts of data and forecasting accurately into the future. Second, he goes into the modern weather data collection apparatus, with satellites circling above the earth, and how this was rapidly developed after World War II. He discusses the considerable infrastructure of weather modeling that infuses all of this data with physical calculations to make model predictions. Making accurate predictions has become a very competitive and specialized business that produces worldwide weather models.
Third, he describes how these models are then fused with the input of local forecasters to predict the weather that we access on our TV or via an app. Finally, he talks about the all-important idea of diplomacy and data sharing, and how worldwide data sharing is so crucial for this infrastructure. The original WWW, in fact, was the world weather watch as opposed to the worldwide web.

Altogether, this was a great read that I would highly recommend to those interested in recent synergistic technological progress.

The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast Kindle Edition
by Andrew Blum (Author)