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Better Data, Better Decisions: UAlbany COE Harnesses Weather-Forecasting Innovation to Aid New Yorkers

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Nuisance weather is a fact of life in the Northeast. Severe forms of weather are also becoming more commonplace, from snow-dumping nor’easters to tropical storms to prolonged heatwaves.
Fortunately for New Yorkers, they have the University at Albany’s Center of Excellence in Weather & Climate Analytics (COE), which leverages access to the most advanced statewide weather network in the United States. With that access, UAlbany’s COE develops tools that help businesses and government operate safely—and more efficiently—in the face of extreme weather.
The COE, part of the NYSTAR innovation network, is powered in part by the New York State Mesonet, an innovative early warning weather-detection system also based at UAlbany. Comprised of 126 weather stations statewide, the NYS Mesonet network was built by UAlbany in partnership with state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services through FEMA funding in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The Mesonet captures more than 500,000 real-time observations daily, which are collected and quality-controlled at UAlbany.
UAlbany’s COE scientists tap into that trove of Mesonet data, as well as other weather data sources, to develop tools to help businesses and government understand and respond to New York’s changing climate.
For example, COE is working with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to develop forecasting tools that will help electric utilities better predict and respond to weather-induced power outages—ensuring New Yorkers receive better electric service.
And it’s not just technological infrastructure. UAlbany’s COE also helps its partners decode and determine the best uses of that data. In the case of utilities: companies need better information to prepare for and respond to weather events. But without meteorologists on staff, how would they know how to implement the findings? COE fills the knowledge gap, helping its utility partners deliver better service to customers and incur fewer fines—which can be massive—for downtime during weather events.
The COE is also helping protect New York’s road safety by aiding the state Department of Transportation in more efficiently removing snow and ice from highways. Educational systems are benefiting, too. Capital Region BOCES partnered with the COE to create a weather dashboard that helps with decision-making around class cancellations due to inclement weather.
“The Center of Excellence in Weather & Climate Analytics is our entrepreneurial hub for a network of more than 120 weather and climate faculty, researchers and research staff,” said Christopher Thorncroft, who directs UAlbany’s Center of Excellence, along with its Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. “In an era of increasingly extreme weather, COE researchers are leading the development of advanced forecasting-based solutions that empower our public and private partners to make better risk-management decisions and increase New York’s weather resiliency.”
For years, New York State has been investing in and building out its innovation infrastructure through NYSTAR, Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation. NYSTAR oversees a robust, statewide network that provides innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders with access to the support they need to solve challenges and keep growing. There are over 70 NYSTAR-backed centers across the state that are actively working to generate technology-driven economic growth.

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