Imagine for just a moment that I were to predict, with certainty, that your house is going to catch on fire multiple times per year for the rest of your life. You are then presented with two options: 1. Use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire quickly and minimize the damage, or 2. Let your house burn down and go through the painful process of starting over every time. Which would you choose? The answer is obvious: You of course would take the fire extinguisher. Similarly, our collective house, Earth, continues to catch fire, and the next generation of extinguishers is in the form of weather and climate security systems.
Twelve months ago, the average Virginian probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you that a snowstorm and frigid temperatures would leave commuters, including a United States senator, stranded on I-95 for over 24 hours without access to food, water or heat—but it did, and can again. What’s more, the costs of natural disasters like these are growing exponentially, with over $280 billion in global losses in 2021, up from $210 billion in 2020 and $166 billion in 2019, according to Munich Re.
And that’s just the beginning.
Over the last two years, a massive amount of money has been invested in VCs and startups, which in theory would lend itself to the type of innovation that can solve the world’s biggest problems. However, 99 percent of that is going to the largest sector of the tech economy, what I call P2P: privileged people solving privileged people’s problems.
We should all be in crisis mode—all systems red—and yet, we are dazzled by dog walking apps, the latest TikTok trend or the new hottest travel app. In short, the handful of people leading the P2P movement are ordering pizza, scrolling through the latest Netflix releases and taking a quick nap while our house is on fire. If we don’t invest in weather and climate now, the rest will be meaningless in a couple of decades.
So, how exactly do investments in weather forecasting companies play into this equation?
Long story short, we as a society have been using the same basic weather forecasting for the past 50 years. Have you ever wondered why the weather forecast is wrong so often? There’s a reason. We can’t accurately predict hurricanes or what’s happening in the oceans unless NOAA, the U.S. government agency in charge of weather forecasting, literally flies an airplane directly over the eye of a storm. At this juncture, we are simply unable to reliably predict rain, high winds, floods, lightning, air pollution, wildfires and more hazardous weather across South America, Africa, India, Western Europe and even parts of the United States and Eastern Europe.
But there is hope. Major organizations across the globe are investing in once-in-a-lifetime technological advancements, and the impact can truly change the world.
With these systems, the transportation industry, including automobiles, trucking, rail, airlines and maritime, can operate in safer and more efficient ways. Farmers can know when to harvest crops and how to best conserve water. The supply chain can avoid disasters like the Evergreen being stuck in the Suez Canal, which was caused by unexpected wind which wasn’t predicted properly. Entire populations can avoid energy grid catastrophes. Sporting events can operate with more confidence. Governments can protect entire populations and safeguard against unexpected weather. The list goes on and on.
The ability to accurately predict weather anywhere on earth seven days in advance of impact is upon us. By using cutting-edge big data, sensing hundreds of millions of global data points via our radar equipped satellites, and running proprietary and new age forecasting models, there has never been a more exciting time to work in the weather and climate industry. We are making advancements every year that used to take us 10 years, and we are getting faster, better and smarter every day.
Our mission necessitates pushing cities, countries and businesses to get up off the couch, put down the pizza and extinguish the fire. Will our leaders listen?
Shimon Elkabetz is the cofounder and CEO of Tomorrow.io (formerly ClimaCell). He served in the Israeli Air Force for 11 years where he experienced multiple near-death weather-related experiences—stoking a deep fascination with weather. He holds a BA in economics from Ben Gurion University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.