Baron Celebrating A 30-year History of Saving Lives with Innovative Weather Technology
Baron is celebrating 30 years of innovative weather technology. The company has become the worldwide leader in critical weather intelligence through its commitment to developing the most effective methods and tools for gathering and disseminating weather data. Baron’s suite of weather products includes severe weather detection, radars, models and forecasting technology, and alerting systems that are used by broadcasters, governments, emergency managers and businesses worldwide. The data and products Baron delivers not only save lives during extreme weather events but allow businesses to make mission-critical decisions when weather impacts their operations.
Mission 1: Save Lives
On November 15, 1989, an F4 tornado tore through Huntsville, Alabama, claiming 23 lives. At the time Bob Baron was an on-air meteorologist in the Huntsville market. The loss of life that day had a profound impact on Bob.
“Nobody at the weather service or in the broadcast community was able to identify the tornado before it came through a major portion of the city,” Baron recalled.
The weather tracking tools of that time were inadequate, and Bob wanted to change that, so he founded Baron in 1990. The mission was to develop innovative storm tracking tools that would provide better warnings and save lives.
Bob began running the company out of his home while maintaining his broadcasting job. In the beginning Baron’s staff consisted of Bob, his wife Phylis, two employees and help from his son Bob Jr. The first project they tackled was delivering radar and lightning data to north Alabama emergency management agencies.
“This was pre-internet,” Bob said. “We set up a network whereby we fed data into the sideband of a local FM station, which was then picked up by other FM stations to the east and west, and the EMAs downloaded and displayed the data on computer terminals. It was the first time they had a live look at developing weather.”
In 1993 Baron released its first broadcast product, OmniWxTrac, an MS-DOS program that allowed broadcasters to track a storm’s speed and direction at street level. OnmiWxTrac featured a vector-based mapping system, opposed to raster-based which was standard at the time. The new technology made it possible to zoom in on storms on-air and create individual storm tracks, allowing meteorologists to provide more accurate arrival times for communities in the storm’s path, resulting in better warnings for people to take cover.
“The integrated ability to zoom in and storm track, defining communities at risk and give an estimated time of arrival was revolutionary,” said Bob.
The first year on the market 6 stations began using OnmiWxTac. By the second year, 20 stations were signed up. While more customers were coming on board, Baron continued to develop better technology. In 1994 Baron introduced FasTrac, its first Windows-based product. FasTrac combined the storm tracking capabilities of OmniWxTrac with the ability to use a mouse, making it easier for broadcasters to utilize the zooming functionality.
With FasTrac on the market, Baron’s customer base continued to swell with 60 stations on board by 1995. Bob left his television job to focus on the company fulltime and Baron was well on its way to becoming a worldwide leader in critical weather intelligence. “We were enjoying a rapidly increasing reputation for severe storm tracking,” said Bob.
The World’s Most Sophisticated Radars
To use FasTrac stations needed a live digital radar, something few had in the mid-’90s. So, Baron jumped into the radar market.
“Do or die,” Bob said about the company’s entry into the radar market. “We started before the NEXRAD network existed, and there were only 12 (radars) in existence in the TV market. When we had sold a half dozen FasTrac systems, we realized we had to get into the radar business to continue.”
Baron’s role as a leader in the radar industry began by taking decommissioned National Weather Service (NWS) radars, refurbishing and adding doppler technology to them, then selling them to television stations. The supply of decommissioned NWS radars eventually dried up and in 1999 Baron began selling its first radars that were completely designed and built in-house. Not long after that Baron had the most powerful and accurate radars on the commercial market with the development of megawatt doppler and dual-polarization (dual-pol) radars. In 2005 Baron was the first to offer dual-pol technology to television stations. Dual-pol radars send both vertical and horizontal pulses, providing forecasters a clearer picture of the shape and size of systems in the area, making it easier to identify precipitation including rain, snow or hail.
In 2007 the most extensive radar network in the United States turned to Baron. The company upgraded all 171 NEXRAD radars to dual-pol and implemented improved calibration routines. NEXRAD radars are used by the U.S. National Weather Service, Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense.
Baron continued to advance radar technology with the development of its Gen3 radar that featured an entirely new design, innovative remote sensing technologies and could be fully customized to meet customer needs. Through an exclusive agreement with the University of Oklahoma, Gen3 radars feature CLEAN-AP technology. Mountains, buildings and other structures can cause erroneous hydrometeor detection, the filtering technology reduces inaccurate radar returns, resulting in a cleaner and more precise display of actual weather targets.
Baron’s Gen3 radars feature radial-by-radial calibration that set the standard for keeping radars accurate, consistent and reliable. By automatically calibrating with every sweep, radial-by-radial radars will calibrate more than 2 million times a year without any human interaction. Historically radar calibration was a laborious task and only done once or twice a year.
“The Baron Gen3 Radars uniquely provide automatic calibration and CLEAN AP clutter on a bin by bin basis helping to provide the incredibly high data quality for the most accurate and precise displays, modeling, and distribution.” Said Bob Baron Jr., who now serves and Vice President and Chief Products Officer.
The Bangladesh Air Force added a Baron Gen3 Dual-Pol radar to its network along with 4 Baron Lynx display workstations in 2018. The Air Force also purchased additional radar products designed for aviation including a numerical weather prediction (NWP) model for the whole country. The critical weather intelligence provided by the radar and integrated modeling allows for better preparation and response when severe weather strikes in Bangladesh.
Baron is the go-to source for radar technology for countries around the globe. Some of the nations using Baron radars include Paraguay, Indonesia, Taiwan, Azerbaijan and more.
Technology for all Weather Scenarios
Baron was founded to improve tornado detection technology and ultimately save lives. In the company’s 30 years it has not only done that but made drastic improvements in forecasting and modeling capabilities for a wide variety of weather like tropical events, hail, flooding and road conditions.
In 1997 Baron took tornado detection to the next level with the release of VIPIR, a product that introduced 3D radar analysis and revolutionary Shear Markers. Baron was searching for a better way to display rotation in a storm than velocities, which were and could not be composited with other radars. The company began researching shear, which is increasing then decreasing outbound winds butted up against increasing then decreasing inbound winds. The patented technology Baron developed allowed forecasters to see where there was a dangerous twisting of the winds by identifying it with a Shear Marker (a graphic element that visualizes the most dangerous area with a rotating circle or cone).
“Not only did the shear product make it easier to depict dangerous areas to the viewer, it could be composited with other Radar,” Bob said of the Shear Marker technology. “Since Baron was the only company analyzing every radial of every radar nationally, and since we were able to patent our process, we were able to offer an exclusive and patented product to our clients.”
Traditionally storms have been tracked from their center. In 2000 Baron changed that by developing new algorithms that tracked the most severe part of a storm. This gave forecasters the ability to pinpoint the areas that would be most impacted by the storm and issue more targeted warnings.
In 2007 Baron completed the development of its patented Baron Tornado Index (BTI) that set the standard for tornado prediction technology. The BTI ranks the likelihood of a tornado forming in a Baron Severe Weather Track on a 1 to 10 scale. The BTI is built on algorithms that include reflectivity, velocity, VIL data and more. WMC in Memphis was the first station to use the BTI on air during the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak.
“We handed them the keys to the kingdom and they hit it out of the ballpark. It performed beautifully,” said Baron Data Services Manager Matt Havin, who played a major role in developing the BTI. “Every event that used the BTI after that showed us how accurate and powerful the tool really is.”
Baron’s forecasting technology moved beyond tornados and severe weather in 2003 with the release of the company’s first weather and air quality model. The company continued to develop more models for conditions such as tropical, hydrological, road and more.
Baron’s weather modeling offers unmatched tropical weather forecast accuracy that precisely predicts the path of tropical systems and the associated precipitation, winds and cloud cover that accompany the event. The integration of buoy reports, wave heights, water temperature, high-resolution satellite imagery, and satellite-derived radar provides a comprehensive view of the storm. Just one example of the precision of Baron’s tropical forecasting accuracy is Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Baron models were able to accurately predict the storm’s path as it approached land, pinpointing the landfall location 30 hours ahead of time.
In the years that followed Baron unveiled advancements in its hydrological modeling technology. Baron flood forecasting products incorporate radar data, automated weather sensors, rain gauges, land surface models, numerical weather prediction models, and hydrological models. The resulting data provides critical decision guidance, allowing improved flooding anticipation, better public outreach and ensures emergency services are dispatched to the most urgent locations. The country of Romania uses Baron technology to manage the nation’s flooding and water management challenges.
Baron has enhanced the quality of road weather analysis and alerting, using a Baron proprietary integrated land-surface and roadway temperature and condition model that factors geography, surface type, and terrain. The data generated includes where current road conditions are dangerous due to snow, rain, flooding or ice, where future road conditions will be adverse, along with other information valuable for keeping motorists safe. Through Baron’s partnership with XM Radio, road condition data can be delivered directly to drivers in their vehicles, so they of treacherous conditions they may encounter. Companies that manage large fleets, such as Verizon and US Fleet Tracking, rely on Baron road weather data to run their operations efficiently by selecting the best routes when dangerous conditions exist or are forecasted.
“Baron has developed a large portfolio of modeling solutions for weather, hydrology, land surface, roadways, air quality, coupled marine, and agriculture,” said Bob Dreisewerd, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Office at Baron. “The combination of leveraging existing community models and enhancing the models with Baron Intellectual Property has contributed to unparalleled accuracy and numerous value-added products from our modeling solutions.”
Baron set the bar even higher for weather modeling in 2019 with the release of the high-resolution Baron 3k Model. Developed over more than 3 years, with model data constantly verified against current conditions to ensure accuracy, the model features many new value-added data products and delivers unmatched precision for daily weather conditions like precipitation, temperature and cloud cover. The Baron 3k model also offers the most accurate forecasts during critical weather events such as hail, damaging winds, flooding and winter weather. All forecast data is available in a nationwide 3km display. The high-resolution display allows users to analyze the data down to the street level without losing clarity.
“We can see forecast features in much greater detail,” Bob said of the Baron 3k model. “It is the same difference as seeing a video in 4k as opposed to standard definition.”
The data generated by Baron’s tornado detection and weather modeling technology is at its most valuable when it is communicated to the public. Since its founding Baron has been constantly working to improve alerting procedures and tools. The first advancement came in 1995 with the release of a weather alert crawl for television that featured a live radar display, delivering critical weather information directly into people’s homes. Baron entered the consumer market with the release of its patented geo-located alerting technology, which alerted people (via pagers at the time) only in targeted areas when severe weather was threatening. Baron also developed user-generated custom push notifications, which allow users to determine the weather alerts they want to receive.
In response to the advent of smartphones, Baron developed its Critical Weather App that sent weather alerts directly to users’ mobile devices. The app was used to power Alabama Safe-T-Net, which was initially launched as an email and text message service. The service featured Baron-generated alerts that included a BTI rating, as well as alerts from the U.S. National Weather Service. Alerts could be issued for current locations and custom locations, allowing users to know not only when severe weather was threatening them, but loved ones in other areas. Alabama Safe-T-Net was free to download.
Mission Critical Weather
As Baron continued to develop innovative weather technology its product portfolio expanded. Today Baron delivers actionable weather information in many forms that helps companies manage the impact weather will have on their operations. Organizations in a wide variety of industries including broadcast, governments, aviation, marine, fleet management, insurance and more are utilizing Baron’s products.
In 2008 Baron released Omni, a system with a powerful graphics engine that was designed to excel in everyday weather scenarios as well as severe weather situations. Baron’s most recent product, Lynx, still offers unrivaled severe weather tools like storm tracking and hand tracker; but also includes exclusive data products, modeling, graphics and traffic integration needed to create the engaging daily weather content stations demand. Baron has tools that make it easy to maximize reach by sharing weather and traffic stories on the web, social media and digital platforms.
“It links all our other products together into one seamless package,” Bob said of Baron Lynx. “The real-time storm tracking of FasTrac, the 3-D analysis of VIPIR, and the graphics engine of Omni, into an integrated system with the same mapping.”
In 2003 Baron began venturing outside of the broadcast and radar markets. Through a partnership with XM Radio Baron delivered weather data directly to aircraft, boats and ships, and emergency management agencies. In 2013 the company introduced its Weather API. The API allows businesses to seamlessly integrate mission-critical Baron weather data into their apps, websites, and software without the need for any additional hardware. Delivered through the cloud, the Weather API is scalable, meeting the data demands of large corporations like AT&T and Verizon. The API catalog has hundreds of data products, including more than 60 that are Baron exclusives. The available data includes a wide variety of historical, current and forecasted weather data that can be used for everything from flight planning and tracking to verifying insurance claims.
The company that began in Bob Baron’s house is now a global operation with customers on six continents and more than 175 television stations using its technology. The driving force behind Baron’s success and growth has been the development of innovative weather technology that has changed the way dangerous weather is detected and communicated to the public.
“When we first started there was a very simple focus, identify significant weather and get the information to those in harm’s way in a clear, understandable way so a life-saving response would occur,” Bob said. “That hasn’t changed in 30 years. It has been amazing to be a part of so many ways of doing so, from radar analysis to modeling, to displays and apps and the world’s most sophisticated radar. I never dreamed 30 years ago Baron would be a leader in so many areas.”
The commitment to saving lives continues at Baron, as the company works to push the envelope for weather technology even farther moving into the future.