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!

My system took a raincheck!

Automated alarms based on thresholds are not so new to decision-support systems, but they are news to the spatial industry, which has historically focused on user-driven analysis and planning. What will the ability to monitor multiple simultaneous environmental parameters and automatically trigger location-specific alerts (when conditions warrant) do for us?

One of the first and most obvious beneficiaries of automated decision-support systems are emergency managers. Reece details the following scenario:

In public safety, rather than having to sit and watch the weather, an automated system can alert an EMA to heavy rains that may cause flooding, or severe storms that contain damaging hail or tornadic activity. The storm is ocated at a specific geographic point, but it also has attributes of direction of travel and speed of travel that you can project that point forward as a corridor over an area of influence down 30 to 60 minutes. The EMA can choose to explore the situation further through a desktop or browser-based GIS application or may decide to immediately alert hospitals, schools, and first responders through a manual or automated dial-out system.

With a time window for a decision, thereís more need for making automated decisions than for a GIS programmer to come in and create that automated decision-support system. The system looks at business assets; real time weather data gets pumped in; the user defines what thresholds are important. Itís akin to doing a spatial analysis with predefined thresholds, but doing it automatically upon receipt of data. Seeing if itís co-located with business assets and then creating a message whether it goes out by email or XML that gets pushed to responsible parties. Thatís another great thing about having a GIS -- you donít have to broadcast those alerts to everyone; you can tailor it to who needs to know and make a decision.

Crucial conversation piece. Any reference to Miss Mannersí opinion on talking about the weather would be incomplete without her conclusion that, time-worn or not, we should all keep talking about the weather:

Weather talk retains its popularity even though those who engage in it all harbor the sheepish feeling that they should say something more original. No, they shouldn't. Please no...those basic weather remarks are nice and comforting and time-worn, and they do not scare off new acquaintances or old friends. This is a lot more than can be said for what passes for conversational originality.

Meteorlogix is setting an interesting trend in the spatial industry by successfully implementing automated, real-time spatial decision support systems in public and private markets. Thanks to this trend, for a little while, at least, we spatial professionals can delight Miss Manners by talking about the weather, but not feel one bit sheepish about the originality of our subject matter.


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