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The cost of NOT collecting historic weather data

By Gerald Hawkins

The raging waters of Mother Nature can render our world helpless, leaving homes destroyed, families ruptured, and the environment damaged. A flood can ruin an entire region in a matter of minutes.

Flooding from Typhoon Ketsana

Flooding from Typhoon Ketsana. By Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

China, Istanbul, and the Philippines have recently lost huge numbers of lives to flooding. How could historical weather data make a difference? By collecting regional data in areas of the world in which weather data has been collected but not retrieved and entered into weather databases, complex weather forecasting models can predict and enable authorities to adequately warn residents.

In September, tropical storm Ketsana lashed out on the Philippines. Tatalon in Quezon City, Manila was affected the greatest by the floodwaters which reached over four feet high. Many people were stranded on roof tops. Almost 2 million people were affected by the flood, and more than 100,000 were removed from their homes. Recently, the death toll rose to 240 people; 240 deaths that could have been prevented if there had been adequate weather forecasting.

By contrast, in mid-September, between 15-20 inches of rain poured down over the southeastern United States affecting Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. Despite the fact that the flooding was much worse and spanned over a larger geographic area, only 9 lives were lost to this storm.

The stark difference in lives lost during these two floods can be credited to forecasting. Forecasting that is built on years and years of historic data.

References:

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/09/flooding_in_the_southeast.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/29/world/asia/29philip.htm

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