House Calls

GOES-16 is now available for testing!

Water vapor image from GOES-16

This low level water vapor image clearly shows a line of strong to severe thunderstorms across eastern Iowa, about to move into Illinois on March 6, 2017. Image from AllisonHouse Maps.

I remember how excited The Weather Channel was when GOES-8 was launched on April 13, 1994. They had a meteorologist down there watching it live, and were reporting it via—landline telephone. The video was courtesy of NASA, all in standard definition, of course. But the GOES-8 imagery…wow! 2 KM visible imagery just blew the mind. And having it every 15 minutes was just fantastic!

So now we’re up to GOES-16. Since that time, it can be said, I believe very accurately, that the new weather satellites that succeeded them were evolutionary. Sure, resolution got better…1 KM visible imagery, 4 KM Infrared imagery, and 8 KM water vapor imagery from our current satellites is something we take for granted; if we really want to, we can go every 5 minutes, and for special events, every 90 seconds. But all of those numbers are blown away with GOES-16. Just as, if not more importantly: the number of products from GOES-16 is light years above the older satellites.

Of course, 1/2 km visible resolution, 1 km IR, and 2 KM water vapor resolution are impressive. But the imager quality is so much better…pixels means nothing if the lens is of low quality! But look at all of these additional products we will be getting from this satellite:



But..GOES-16 also detects lightning in real-time, measures the geomagnetic field in space, and a lot more. Furthermore, there are products that are being developed! That’s right, the imager firmware can be upgraded from Earth. Here’s some products they are working on, to see if they will be valuable to the meteorological community:

Where Is AllisonHouse Data Used?

AllisonHouse weather data is used all over the United States. Whether it’s the weather enthusiast, city police departments, or professional meteorologist, our data is used all over the country, for a wide variety of uses.

The NCAA rules require that an outdoor sporting event is suspended immediately if lightning is within 13 miles of that event, and 30 minutes after the last thunderclap is heard. With AllisonHouse, a timely warning can be given to spectators and participants to protect them and get off the field in a safe and timely matter. And in the case of a large professional sporting event, it can take up to 30 minutes to evacuate everyone out of the exposed areas of a stadium. This data provides the critical decision-making intelligence needed to make the right call. And whether you are the safety director of the Daytona 500 Speedway, or a Little League coach or umpire, AllisonHouse can assist in keeping you safe when the storm is about to strike.

When an individual or team is assigned the task of monitoring the weather for a venue, event, or city, they immediately start evaluating their options for fast, dependable, weather data. This is what AllisonHouse specializes in; we will give you the data you need while also helping you set up your weather arsenal with the programs that utilize our data the best. For instance, if a stadium is needing to monitor the lightning threat for their area. We can provide the lightning data you need with range rings that will turn a color or your choice when lightning is within a distance of your venue’s location which you specify. With our high-resolution lightning packages, you even have the option to see the difference between cloud-to-ground strikes, and cloud-to-cloud. Whether it be the Daytona 500 Speedway, University of Texas, Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s Stadium tens of thousands of cheering fans may not be able to see or hear the storm coming. With an AllisonHouse subscription, venue managers and public safety officials can see dangerous thunderstorms approaching in real-time.

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Here are some of the notable venues and stadiums that use AllisonHouse data for their weather decision-making.

Daytona 500
Tampa Sports Authority/Raymond James Stadium (Tampa Bays Bucs, University of South Florida, 2017 National Championship Game)
University of Texas Sporting Events
Texas A&M Sporting Events
Boone Pickens Stadium (Oklahoma State Football)

If you would like to know more about how AllisonHouse data can help you, please contact [email protected]

The National Weather Service “second” modernization…an update

I’m sitting in the classroom of Professor Fortune at NIU in the eaely 1990s, as a new and exciting thing was about to happen. Level 3 radar data was going to be made available from the new WSR-88D’s which were going to be installed…and NIU was going to be the first entity to get the data….at a pretty steep price of nearly $10,000/year.

I remember downloading the software necessary to display it, and I botched the first command on the command line (to menus/GUI’s back then!). A second attempt nailed it…and up came an image of northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and northwestern Indiana that showed light rain showers at high resolution across the northwest part of the state. Students quickly gathered around my workstation, and soon, as I was looping the images, students kept shaking their heads at this amazing new technology!

Unfortunately, for the data distribution arm of the National Weather Service, they’ve been stuck in the 1990s. Servers and other equipment that are used, without redundancy, have actually done amazingly well at ingesting and relaying data since the 1980s. But when they tried to send MRMS radar data through this past year, well…they’re still having some issues with it to this day arriving in a timely matter.

But now a major modernization of equipment is underway at the National Weather Service (NWS). First, this summer, the NOAA Weather Radio system, with replacement parts almost unobtainable, was replaced with a system from 2015.  It used to take 20-30 seconds to encode a single warning, and then activate the tones to broadcast the alert out. Now it takes one second, or less…and the reliability of the system is higher. There are a few bugs, but those should be worked out soon. There are no bugs that I know of to delay a warning from going out.

Of course, the switch to dual-pole doppler radars is now behind us, and that has been a big deal! Tornado Vortex Signature (TVS) talk is being replaced with Tornado Debris Signature (TDS). This summer, it was fascinating…and horrifying…to watch a tornado in Minnesota roll across farmhouses. The debris signature ramped up each time one got hit. You couldn’t tell that without dual-pole radar!

And now, here comes a biggie. After being used with AFOS, AWIPS, and now AWIPS2, the National Weather Service Telecommunications Gateway (NWSTG) is going away on December 1, 2016, barring unforseen circumstances. When this happens, the system backbone that the NWS ingests and disseminates data to and from will be redundant for the first time: one backbone (primary) located in College Park, MD; the other (backup) in Boulder, CO. If one crashes and burns, the other takes over. And instead of 1990s networking that has been upgraded to try to keep up, this new network is much faster, with servers built over the last year or so. It used to be that data was prioritized to get everything through; level 3 radar always took a backseat to tornado warnings, for example. Not any more…when a product is issued, it gets to you immediately, no matter what it is.

I suspect that despite the redundancy, there will be glitches in the system, and a few outages for a while. I certainly hope that is not true, but we have seen a few glitches in the new system as it has been phased in with other feeds. No show-stoppers, but outages have occurred with MRMS and other feeds as the transition has rolled on. No need to worry; this is an entirely new system and things like this are to be expected.

When this is all done early next year with everything on the new system, it will be great. It will be able to handle GOES-R, aka GOES-16 data (the current system gets overwhelmed and it simply cannot handle the firehose of test GOES-R data that was thrown at it), along with new products coming in the future. The reliability will be much higher, and if outages occur, backup systems can kick on to keep the data flowing. And, the NWS will have much higher levels of bandwidth available to them, all the way down to the forecast offices. The amount they now have now is not good (DSL speeds at best for most offices).

So, I’m thankful that the NWS can do all these upgrades. And with the current speed of the processors and networks available, this will be a huge leap for them. And AllisonHouse has our backbone all ready for it: from redundant servers and feed locations and methods, along with a very high capacity network, we have you covered! Get in on one of our data plans and see how scorching fast our data comes in! Data that took seconds to traverse the fiber in the past will very soon take milliseconds. And for that, we salute the NWS on their upgrade. We can’t wait to see all of the new products we will be offering you in the future with as a result off these major upgrades!