Scientific Visualization of Meteorological Data Inputs
As meteorological organizations adapt to increasingly extreme weather, the ability to provide personnel with distributed display of weather intelligence across an entire network is crucial, providing numerous advantages for operational staff and stakeholders. When a fully integrated meteorological surveillance and alerting system is in place, every authorized user receives reliable, instant access to critical weather intelligence, regardless of location. In particular, by having earlier access to this information, forecasters are able to issue more timely warnings and advisories, giving residents more lead time to prepare and respond.
Various applications can be used to accomplish this, including browser and mobile apps. The majority of this article will focus on the Baron Lynx display client software.
Flexibility is key. While the system can naturally be used for operational nowcasting and forecasting, advanced graphical capabilities allow users to prepare and deliver meteorological briefings, present the weather on broadcast television, or use social media and the web to deliver forecasts and vital information.
Use Cases for Nowcasting and Forecasting
For severe weather situations, Baron Lynx is designed as a user-friendly tool for pathcasting and radar analysis, overlaid onto a local mapping database. The system is deployable anywhere in the world, with the ability to incorporate datasets of all scales, from very site-specific products to full-scale global data. Datasets typically include radar data (including dual-pol products), value-added products, satellite imagery, forecast models, sensor reports and others, according to the user’s requirements. Tools to monitor a storm feature’s altitude and distance from the radar, as well as data query for individual pixels, are provided. Users also have the option to tap into live camera networks, like webcams and traffic cams, for a ground-truth view of actual conditions occurring.
Pathcasting is performed through either manual or automated techniques, depending on the user’s preference. While traditional “drag and drop” storm tracking is supported, automated Baron Storm Vectors provide instant identification of meteorological threats. These include high winds, heavy rain, hail and tornadoes. Each arrow-like indicator can be clicked, allowing the user to evaluate storm conditions such as max dBZ and hail content, and determine affected locations with estimated times of arrival. These capabilities assist the forecaster in issuing more precisely timed and targeted weather alerts. Additionally, a frame capture tool allows the user to efficiently create preset map views and movements, allowing continuous meteorological surveillance with minimal intervention.
A quad-panel analysis tool enables simultaneous display of four views, so forecasters can comprehensively evaluate conditions using multiple data products generated by their meteorological network. For example, during a convective event, data might be shown for reflectivity, as well as value-added detection products for flooding, hail and wind shear. Conversely, for a winter weather outbreak, the user might choose to display hydrometeor classification, correlation coefficient, dual-pol snow accumulations and dual-pol snowfall rate, all at the same time. Sensor reports, forecast models and other data overlays can be added to these views.
Volumetric radar imaging and RHI analysis techniques incorporate every available elevation from a volumetric scan, producing a 3D view of storm structure in real-time, using reflectivity, velocity or any dual-pol product. Value-added products also created from multi-elevation data can be displayed, as well. With volumetric imaging, storm features such as pockets of hail or heavy rain can be accurately depicted in 3D space, allowing meteorologists to accurately determine the altitude and location of the threat. Meteorologists can more easily see inflow and outflow boundaries, as well as the location of possible tornadoes. By isolating lower levels of intensity from the map, meteorologists more easily see and analyze the most threatening areas of a weather system.
RHI analysis uses similar processing to generate real-time vertical profiles of radar imagery. Like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, this capability enables viewing of radial data obtained by a volumetric radar. Manual analysis of the resulting cross-section provides easier viewing of features such as melting layers, resulting in improved winter weather forecasting.
While the map-based analysis mode of Baron Lynx can be shared with any desired audience, other capabilities are designed purely for internal and/or external presentation. Current condition and forecast visuals, manually entered or automatically populated with a forecast database, are provided as an integrated component of the system. The flexibility of the system accommodates any artwork, video or text the user chooses to include. For video presentation, a meteorologist can use the system with a Chroma key wall or touchscreen. A camera-based hand tracking option combines computer vision and machine learning to provide reliable, accurate operation directly from the presentation area.
Numerical weather prediction models are fully editable in the system by staff forecasters, allowing the forecaster to make manual adjustments based on observation and knowledge before a forecast is presented. This modified forecast may then be distributed to other forecasters, the public, social media, or any other channels.
Distribution and Sharing
Beyond presentation, an organization’s meteorological assets can be distributed internally through a number of means. The Baron Lynx system allows efficient updating of any weather content to an organization’s website or social media accounts. As imagery or forecasts are created in the system, meteorologists can share them directly from the interface. Videos can also be generated from the system for social and web sharing, along with a picture-in-picture feature that allows the user to present using a consumer webcam while simultaneously showing map and graphics views.
Web-based tools allow users away from the Lynx workstation to edit their graphical forecasts before distribution, using a secure portal. The ability to search social media networks for specific weather content, whether shared by trained personnel or the general public, enables easy distribution of text, imagery and videos through web, graphical presentation, or the organization’s own social media channels.
Case Study: Pelmorex Media
Pelmorex Media Inc. is the umbrella company for The Weather Network (Canada, US and UK), MeteoMedia (French-speaking Canada), and ElTiempo.es (Spain). These brands collectively reach over 40 million users on average each month through cable, satellite and internet streaming service.
In late 2014, Baron began working with Pelmorex to provide data integration and display services to all three of its networks, with largely identical configurations installed in the associated facilities. The Baron display system is at the heart of these configurations. Modifications to the system output were made to accommodate multiple time zones, units and languages. The systems are used continuously for weather surveillance and forecasting, as well as presentation and web distribution. The systems also automatically populate a centralized image library for Pelmorex meteorologists to access at any time for their forecasts and coverage.
Among the custom work performed was the creation of a US/Canada radar composite product using all available single-site radar sensors. The 15km Baron forecast model was expanded to include most of Canada, and value-added storm tracks were implemented, based on data derived from the Canadian radar network. Additionally, lightning detection from TOA Systems was incorporated. Pelmorex networks also receive NEXRAD and GOES products through their Baron displays.
The customer’s in-house technology, the Pelmorex Forecast Engine (PFE), allows their meteorologists to issue international weather forecasts pinpointed to a 1 square-kilometer grid. This information was integrated into the Baron display, as well, for presentation to Pelmorex audiences in North America and Europe.
As a result, critical weather intelligence generated from the Baron displays are available to users in over 11.3 million Canadian homes, including 99% of Canadian cable and satellite subscribers. In Spain, Eltiempo.es services over 690 million page views annually, with over 10 million unique visitors on average per month.
Through implementations such as these, organizational meteorologists receive network-wide meteorological information and graphical assets, while their forecasts and shared content can more easily reach an audience of millions.