This article originally appeared in Geospatial Solutions Magazine's Net Results column of March 1, 2003. Other Net Results articles about the role of emerging technologies in the exchange of spatial information are also online.

1. Introduction and Glossary   2. Rain or locust clouds?   3. Weather Decision Support   4. System raincheck!

Who would have guessed that such a time-worn conversation-starter as the weather could become a celebrity by donning geospatial clothes? According to Miss Manners, "No general topic of conversation has as bad a reputation as the weather. Talking about the weather is considered by all to be the classic sign of social desperation." But, mannerly or not, the availability of highly localized, real-time, historical, and forecast weather information suitable for integration with spatial decision-support systems is not only newsworthy material -- itís financially prudent.

News you can use
The CFO of Union Pacific, for instance, has budgetary reasons to talk about the weather. The addition of meteorlogic data to Union Pacificís GIS has already prevented three potential train derailments by gusting winds in the past year, saving several million dollars of recovery costs. The bad news is that some derailments are unavoidable. The good news is that knock-down costs can be reduced by an order of magnitude with an advanced warning system. It costs Union Pacific $1-2 million dollars to recover from the high wind derailment of a rapidly moving train, in part due to track deformation. A stationary train knock-down, however, costs only about one-tenth of that to repair. So, knowing exactly when to stop a train and wait for a heavy storm or tornado to pass is potentially worth a lot of money.

Preventing or mitigating knock-downs requires integration of both train and storm real-time locations. Though detailed meteorlogical data have been available for many years, only recently are they readily compatible with commercial spatial desktop software systems. Todayís leading weather services provider, Meteorlogix, LLC (, converts data feeds from satellite and radar sensors, such as NEXRAD, into shapefile or Web service format for integration with traditional GIS desktop applications. This column covers the collection of weather data, its processing by Meteorlogix, and the use of weather feeds by the spatial community in a variety of fields.

ALOHA: Areal Location of Hazardous Atmospheres
AWS: Air Weather Service
CATS: Consequences Assessment Tool Set
DOC: United States Departments of Commerce
DOD: United States Department of Defense
DOT: United States Department of Transportation
EMA: Emergency Management Agency
FAA: Federal Aviation Administration
FTP: File Transfer Protocol
NEXRAD: Next Generation Radar
NWS: National Weather Service
SAIC: Science Applications International Corporation
XML: Extensible markup language

1. Introduction and Glossary   2. Rain or locust clouds?   3. Weather Decision Support   4. System raincheck!