The higher than usual temperatures and volatile weather that have swept parts of the planet this year have sharpened the focus on climate change. Such volatile weather impacts every area of human existence, including but not restricted to food security, commerce and the financial markets. The hyper-connected nature of today's world, where any disturbance can ripple across in the blink of an eye, makes tracking climate change and shaping our responses to it on the fly highly important.
However, to track the effects of climate change real-time and to forecast the occurrence of extreme weather, calls for massive data crunching capability. That used to be the forte of organizations with massive computing power at their disposal. The drawback was that these organizations were often not connected well enough to markets and businesses for the results of their work to be put to use in time to limit damage from extreme weather.
The entry of Big Data and Cloud Computing has altered the scenario dramatically. It is now possible for businesses, market players, governments and even farmers to monitor weather changes real-time and take action to minimize damage.
So, farmers in places like Midwestern United States, which was in the grip of a withering drought, can now monitor temperature and soil data in their farms and decide which areas to water and how much, optimizing the use of scarce resources such as ground water and power. Such data-based intervention also means that damage to crops can be reduced and accurate forecasts on crop damage can be made. Also, crop insurance firms can use Big Data to decide daily farm insurance payouts based on accurate weather and soil information and cover any possible calamity through reinsurance.
Governments, too, are benefiting from leveraging this intersection of technology. For instance, Virginia integrated five emergency 24/7 call centers to take non-emergency calls that pertain to health and human services with a cloud platform last fall. So when thunderstorms swept across a large swath of the state and the volume of emergency calls peaked, the emergency centers were easily able to balance the load. Before the integration each call center worked in a silo and would break down if the call volume went above what it could field.
The role of Big Data analytics has become even more important in the wake of climate change and its impact of extreme weather phenomena. For instance, NASA's Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS) uses more than 35,000 processing cores to crunch more than 400 trillion floating-point operations per second. As climate scientists increase the resolution of their models, the size of this data mountain will only grow.
Going forward, even as scientists crunch away at data to figure out how to slow down and reverse the effects of climate change, technologies such as Cloud Computing and Big Data will also help businesses and individuals to forecast extreme weather and take swift action to limit its impact on life and business.