Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Climatewatch: the insecurity market

  • Written by  Marco Magrini
  • Published in Opinions
Hurricane Laura approaches the coast of the US Hurricane Laura approaches the coast of the US
20 Oct
An uncertain future makes predicting it big business says Marco Magrini

Fugaku is the fastest supercomputer on the planet. Recently built by Japanese company Fujitsu, it’s capable of 2.6 quadrillion operations per second. This staggering processing power is now at the service of the Japanese Meteorological Research Institute to help weather and climate forecasting and, above all, disaster warning.

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonIn these turbulent times, we’re committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Extreme weather, largely fuelled by climate change, is an increasing liability to the world’s economy. More than ever, countries and companies need accurate predictions in order to protect their people and their operations from disaster. This is why weather forecasting has grown into an industry that, in 2015, was estimated at US$56 billion, and is certainly bigger today.

Last year, as typhoon Hagibis was approaching its shores, Japan issued a special warning, suspended the Shinkansen trains and shut down supermarkets well in time. As extreme events become the new normal, trucking companies, commodity traders and utility providers – not to mention insurance companies – need reliable hour-by-hour forecasts and analysis, just to save money. Weather services used to be run by governments, but now a growing number of start-ups are attracted to a booming market: the market of climate insecurity.

In late August, hurricane Laura made landfall at 150 mph in almost the exact location in Louisiana predicted 3.5 days earlier. Such a result would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, yet it’s precisely what is needed as we move forward into a more uncertain world. A constant increase in processing power, coupled with artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud-based systems are anticipating the near future. Not only do they tell an airline to reschedule flights to avoid storms, or suggest to a farmer when to irrigate crops, they also inform millions of people when to evacuate from a hurricane’s path, or simply when it’s time to grab an umbrella.

However, the very people who rely on their smartphone’s weather apps often confuse meteorology with climatology. The former tries to predict atmospheric behaviour in the very short term, the latter in the very long term (including other factors, such as the Sun’s radiation). It’s strange that countries, companies and families promptly react to the flash warnings of meteorologists, but still fail to act in the face of the dire predictions of climatologists. They both use the same processing power, the same artificial intelligence and essentially the same science.

Subscribe to Geographical today for just £38 a year. Our monthly print magazine is packed full of cutting-edge stories and stunning phography, perfect for anyone fascinated by the world, its landscapes, people and cultures. From climate change and the environment, to scientific developments and global health, we cover a huge range of topics that span the globe. Plus, every issue includes book recommendations, infographics, maps and more!

Related items

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3


DurhamBath Spa600x200 Greenwich Aberystwythherts




Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in OPINIONS...


Marco Magrini shares his views on the government's new White…


Joe Biden’s entry into the White House is good news…


Science and technology are making incremental steps to a cleaner…


An uncertain future makes predicting it big business says Marco Magrini


The only way forward is to reject coal, says Marco…


A proposed development at Toondah Harbour, in the Moreton Bay…


Many of the crises we are currently experiencing trace their…


The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly shocked energy markets, but it’s…


Graham Loomes, professor of behavioural science at Warwick Business School shares…


The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shifts in working practices have…


A message for A-Level geographers from Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder…


Helen Sharman CMG OBE, the first British astronaut and now…


‘Regeneration’ more often than not means ‘gentrification’, says Jade MacRury