May 18, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

Three Ways Weather Analytics Benefit The Environment

3 min read

This year’s Earth Day theme, “Invest in Our Planet” calls for everyone, from individuals, governments, and businesses to take actions that reduce our impact on the environment. The Earth Day website provides great information about how individuals, groups and organizations can become involved in large-scale projects, steps to reduce your own impact, such as buying sustainable fashion, and or simply becoming more climate literate. There is even a quiz to test your climate knowledge. Here is my question to add to the climate quiz. Did you know that weather analytics play a critical role in reducing environmental impact? Here are three of several ways that weather analytics impacts climate today and for our future.

Reducing Chemicals and Salt for Road Treatment

In the U.S., we spread more than 20 million metric tons of salt on our roads each winter to keep roads clear and motorists safe during winter weather. Growing evidence shows that some of the chemicals used contaminate drinking water and harm the environment. For example, a recent study found that 24 percent of private drinking wells in New York were contaminated with salt that had been used on roads.

Unnecessary treatment can be reduced by using road pavement forecasting. Using weather data in this way uses a combination of high-resolution forecasts, road sensors and environmental assessment of temperature influences on road sections. Based on the insights, road maintenance crews can choose to treat selected locations along a road where there are cold-spot road sections, or they may decide whether treatment is necessary at all. Using this method, the Maryland Department of Transportation has used 53 percent less salt over the past five seasons. Other states are following suit and working to reduce salt use. For example, in New York, many counties are reviewing road-salt contamination and solutions with formation of committees like the Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force.

Ship Fuel Use and Carbon Emissions

The shipping industry is among the leading producers of sulfur emissions worldwide. The International Maritime Organization has taken steps to reduce carbon intensity in international shipping, including regulations that reduce carbon emission by 70 percent by 2050. New equipment and alternative fuels will aid in this directive, but so can weather analytics. Studies show that weather-optimized routing can reduce emissions and fuel consumption up to 5 percent, depending on the type of vessel, the season, and the conditions. Route-planning is established prior to voyage but is an ongoing dynamic process. If there is bad weather ahead, sophisticated algorithms that utilize information about the ship and its capabilities and the weather effects on that specific ship can make numerous calculations and provide one or more alternatives for the mariner to optimize a route.

Leveraging Weather Data for Alternative Energy

Just last year, land-based wind energy accounted for more than a third of all new US generation capacity and the Department of Energy anticipates building a $70 billion offshore wind business pipeline by 2030. Weather data will play a major role in every phase of renewable energy development, from site selection, to installation, optimizing energy generation, managing supply and demand, routine maintenance, and decommissioning sites.

Weather data is not only key to harnessing wind or solar power but contributes to the bottom line in other ways. For example, using weather insights can inform decision making around potential damage and repairs to equipment, which can have a significant impact on the bottom line. Solar PV modules are expensive to replace if damaged, and proactively repairing minor damage to turbine blades offers significant savings compared to traditional practices of inspecting blades once every three years and reactively addressing more major repairs.

These are just three examples of how using weather analytics can benefit the environment. In today’s connected world, we can monitor global weather patterns and model for localized impact, by using thousands of different data points collected from the ground, the sky and even space. This robust data, combined with the confluence of ongoing weather and climate research and advanced weather models and technology, makes it possible for most businesses and industries to take control, and make a positive impact on the environment.