What does the United States willingly give, without charge, to almost every country on the planet – and they, in turn, return the favor to us?

It is hard to think of many examples to fulfill that criterion, but one of the answers is weather data. Lots and lots of weather data. Michael Lewis said that “weather data is one of the greatest illustrations of the possibility of global collaboration and public spiritedness.”

Weather information is collected, shared and stored from almost every point on the globe. It is compiled from sophisticated satellites and complex radar stations but also from thousands of amateur weather observers, commercial planes, ships, buoys in the ocean and daily weather balloon releases. “Each and every day, NOAA* collects twice as much data as is contained in the entire book collection of the Library of Congress,” writes Lewis.

You may think you get your weather from an app on your phone or a meteorologist on the television set, but in reality, the forecasts are modeled on the complex data collected by governments around the world. Modern computing capacity has allowed the time frame for which forecasts are given to expand – by crucial minutes for tornado warnings and by days for traditional weather patterns. While we clearly don’t have the precision that we would like, empirically forecasting for public safety has become substantially more accurate over the years.

You can envision a scenario where powerful or wealthy countries would keep their data for themselves or charge others for the reports generated by their billion-dollar satellites, but, fortunately, the information exchange still flows freely. If countries who can’t agree on much can willingly exchange valuable data, what can you share with others outside your organization? Conduct your own experiment in public spiritedness and offer your pieces of information to help create enlightenment for the whole.

Source: The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis, an Audible Original, 2018.
*NOAA = National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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