Frequently Asked Questions about aWhere and Weather

Weather is constantly changing and increasingly impacting our lives as increasing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are making our weather more variable. Understanding our weather is a good investment to understand our modern world. This resource will draw on resources from NASA and aWhere to empower you to make sense of our weather and the resources available to generate your own insights.

Weather 101

What’s the difference between weather and climate?

“Weather” refers to the more local changes in the climate we see around us, on short timescales from minutes to hours to days to weeks. Examples are familiar – rain, snow, clouds, winds, thunderstorms, heat waves and floods. “Climate” refers to longer-term averages (they may be regional or global), and can be thought of as the weather averaged over several seasons, years or decades.

What’s the difference between climate change and global warming?

“Global warming” refers to the long-term warming of the planet. “Climate change” encompasses global warming, but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet, including rising sea levels; shrinking mountain glaciers; accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic; and shifts in flower/plant blooming times.

What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is the way in which heat is trapped close to the surface of the Earth by “greenhouse gases.”

Has Earth continued to warm since 1998?

Yes, evidence shows warming from 1998 to the present, with the four most recent years (2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017) being the four warmest years globally since 1880.

Which measurement is more accurate: taking Earth’s surface temperature from the ground or from space?

Since satellites technically measure neither temperature nor the surface (where people live), it’s safe to say that ground thermometers are more accurate than satellite measurements. 

Accuracy of observed weather data versus forecast data

What kinds of data do scientists use to study climate?

 

Climate researchers use every possible direct and indirect measurement to study the full history of Earth’s climate, from the latest satellite observations to samples of prehistoric ice extracted from glaciers.

 

How do scientists know their data-processing techniques are reliable?

The records of global temperatures calculated by U.S. and other major climate research organizations are remarkably similar, despite the different data-processing techniques used. The techniques used by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and other respected groups are peer reviewed, and the processed data sets have undergone many peer-reviewed analyses as well.

Where do the data come from?

Modern observations mostly come from weather stations, weather balloons, radars, ships and buoys, and satellites.

How do scientists deal with these changes?

Major climate research organizations worldwide have developed mathematically rigorous, peer-reviewed data processing methods to identify and compensate for changes in observing conditions.

Application of weather data for a sustainable future

Weather data and analytics is increasingly important to support a wide range of sectors but the one most impacted is our global food system. Agriculture is a weather-driven sector that is adversely impacted by extreme weather and increased variability. For this reason, aWhere has focused its weather data and tools to serve the agriculture sector.

How important is weather data in supporting modern agriculture?

Weather data and insights add value along the entire agrifood value chain – from the farmer in optimizing production through to the consumer looking for affordable access and better nutrition. Our global food system contributes over 10 trillion to our global economy and weather insights can add a conservative $300 billion to our food system, especially for countries who largely depend on rainfed agriculture. Read more here. 

 

What business opportunities exist to leverage weather data to support farmer in different parts of the world? 

There has been much discussion on data-driven agronomy to increase farm productivity and sustainability. Three key data inputs to modernize our farming systems in order of importance are accurate local weather, market prices, and digital soil maps. The reason for this order is the cadence of change with weather and market pricing changing quickly and both impacting on soil management decisions. Unfortunately most of the 570 million farmers around the world don’t have access to these data to make better decisions. aWhere has addressed the weather component by generating 1.9 million complete weather stations that puts every farmer within 6.4 km of a local weather stations.

What impact does weather variability have on food security?

Weather variability is being manifest in three major ways: uncertainty of start and duration of the rainy season, extreme weather events that disrupt crop production and destroy property and infrastructure such as levees; and disincentivize farmers to invest in their farms and in extreme cases leads to massive migration. aWhere has documented these changes in several countries and you can see summary reports for Southern Africa and Russia. 

How are weather patterns changing in my location? 

aWhere offers freemium access to our data and tools to explore local changes on our adaptER platform that you can register on for free.

Importance of Weather data in Financial Services

Financial markets do not like uncertainty. Weather shocks are impacting financial markets, especially those tied to our food and energy systems. 

Detailed answer on impact on financial markets

How can weather data enhance financial services to rural communities?

Weather data can be used to understand the risk of crop failures and to ensure farmers are cultivating crops in a manner that reduces these risks. A preliminary study in Myanmar by the World Bank illustrated the potential of this approach to increase farmer access to credit by providing insights to both farmers and lenders to reduce production risks and optimize farm operations for increased return on investment by farmers.

How are diseases impacted by weather?

Weather can have a profound impact on vector borne diseases such as dengue and malaria as well as water borne diseases like cholera when extreme rainfall events overwhelm sewage systems. This is especially true for tropical zones, especially in emerging markets where infrastructure and healthcare systems are poor. Weather analytics can identify areas at high risk of vector or water borne diseases so health interventions can be initiated in advance of disease outbreaks. During the COVID pandemic we see the confluence of climate change, COVID and food security emerging in many parts of the developing world and you can learn more about this in our blog series covering this topic.

Is there a relationship between temperature and relative humidity on COVID-19 cases?

This is an important and controversial topic but in general, respiratory viruses like COVID are impacted by seasonal weather. However, most studies to date have been observational and are confounded by human behavior associated with weather and varying public health regulations over time. Researchers are actively investigating the interaction of weather and COVID infections but a definitive answer will likely not be found until 2021. 

2020 article hereaWhere analyst explored this issue in this blog post.

How is weather variability and extreme events impacting our infrastructure? 

During the past year, we have seen many examples of flooding events causing extensive damage around the world with recent examples from China, Japan, Sudan, India, and the USA to name a few. Increased severity of rainfall events is posing the greatest risk as water management structures like dams and levees were designed for weather events over 80 years ago in advanced economies and the last 30 years in emerging economies like China’s three-gorges-dam completed in 2006. aWhere now has the analytical tools to assess actual rainfall within water basins to identify risks and when combined with hydrology can be a powerful aid to inform future engineering requirements to deliver resilience to future flood events and to identify regions at risk to inform future zoning requirements and insurance premiums. aWhere did a recent analysis done for China that received over 500 mm rainfall in an area the size of Iowa that flooded the Yangtze River and challenged the limits of the largest hydro-dam in the world. 

How is weather variability and shifts in patterns being used to inform infrastructure investments for transportation, food systems, natural resource management and optimizing water resources? 

Using aWhere’s gridded observed weather surfaces dating back to 2006 enables detailed environmental trend analysis that in turn inform investments for resilience to climate change. A recent analysis of Southern Africa points to the urgent need for watershed management investment to support farmers. Analysis in Russia shows the need for investing in longer duration wheat varieties that have higher grain quality to access premium markets. Analysis that tracked the Indian monsoon this year shows where watershed investments should be prioritized to reduce flooding and sustain agriculture. These are a few among many examples of how weather data can inform decisions to reduce loss of life, property and our natural resources to empower us all as we adapt to the tangible realities of climate change.