In the South, residents on the gulf coast are given the privilege of seeing hurricanes develop in the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike earthquakes and tornadoes, meteorologists can predict hurricanes days before they pose a threat to the coast. These scientists gather data and predict where storms are going in order to warn people in danger of losing their homes or even their lives.
Weather systems meteorologists use are integral in making accurate predictions on where storms are going, and weather technology company Baron: Critical Weather Intelligence aims to improve both accuracy in gathering data and ease of storytelling with their new weather system the Baron Lynx.
When Baron was founded in 1988, the company formed in order to keep people safe from dangerous weather by creating tools that could help meteorologists dictate information to audiences in accessible ways. Their first weather system OmniWxTrac was built on Microsoft DOS, predating Windows. Not long after they built the system it was replaced by FastTrac, a Windows-based weather system which gathered automatic and manual data to create a list of cities affected by storms and times these cities will be hit by said storm. Baron patented this technology after it was created.
“This method of storm tracking is still very much in use around the United States today,” vice president of marketing Kim Grantham said. “Since we created the system, Baron has continued to grow and expand our tracking technologies.”
These tracking technologies Baron created over the years range from predicting tornadoes using data on rotations in the atmosphere with the Shear Marker to predicting the path of the severe storms using the Baron Storm Cell and Identification Tracks to the Volumetric Imaging and Processing of Integrated Radar or VIPIR display system. These tools are used by meteorologists every day to relay information about immediate weather threats.
The new Lynx system is designed to combine all of Baron’s patented tracking technology into one system able to be applied to all different types of weather threats. In development for two years, goes farther than just combining existing Baron technologies; the system includes brand new high-definition graphics and integrates social media into the system to more easily tell the story of weather.
“Lynx is a storytelling tool,” Grantham said. “By making the system easier to operate, providing an environment for creative artwork and supplying graphics and materials ready to use, Lynx makes it easier to tell the weather story. It’s like an artist’s palette with graphical and analysis capabilities.”
The new graphical layouts in Lynx allow each news station to build a unique identity for itself, ensuring no two stations using Baron’s new system will look the same while building new models to emphasise important information.
Director of broadcast meteorology at Baron Steve Bray built his first manual weather system on an 8-bit computer Commodore 64 early on in his career and has watched weather tracking technology evolve throughout his 30-year career. Bray said he dreamed of the technology meteorologists have now, and is excited to have been part of making the Lynx.
“A broadcast meteorologist has to be a scientist, a presenter and an artist,” Bray said. “One of the most exciting things about being at Baron is being part of the team who have launched a weather system that is easy to use, looks great and has a foundation you can trust.”
In the social media age, stories are told across a variety of platforms in different ways specific to each place the content is viewed. In order to adapt, Lynx has built in social network functionality that allows meteorologists to more easily display audience-generated content from people experiencing weather in person as well as giving Lynx the capability to scale from television to smartphones to computers.
“Each medium has different physical characteristics and the audience interacts with the material differently,” Grantham said. “It was important to make this process efficient and easy for the user. Consistency across multiple platforms helps ensure that viewers understand the conditions and threats better and without confusion.”
While the main goal was to make the meteorologist created content accessible no matter where the audience viewed it, Baron has also added tools to allow viewers to chime in on the conversation. Built into Lynx is a social media content aggregator tool that allows meteorologists to plug sharable posts into weather casts much more easily than before across different social media networks, viewer email, web-enabled cameras and other resources each station may have at their disposal.
In the coming weeks Lynx will be installed at New Orleans-based news station WVUE FOX 8, and the weather team is excited for the possibilities the new weather system opens for them. FOX 8’s chief meteorologist David Bernard said the new system draws in data independently from the National Weather Service, allowing the station to get information about potential tornadoes much quicker.
“In the past this has led FOX 8 meteorologists to identifying severe storms five to eight minutes faster than with NWS algorithms,” Bernard said.
In the case of tornadoes, mere minutes can give people extra time to put themselves in safer locations in their homes while the storm blows over.
Bernard said Lynx also lets meteorologists look at the data themselves and present what they see. The software steps back and allows meteorologists to build their shows how they see fit.
“This kind of human touch to the forecast will not only give a more accurate representation of what we expect to happen, but it allows the meteorologist to not rely on any one specific model when presenting his or her forecast,” Bernard said.
New Orleans’s weather dictates how people live their lives, and having the tools required to understand its unpredictable nature is crucial to giving people the right information. The new Lynx weather system allows meteorologists to get more accurate data more quickly and present these findings in a way that are accessible to viewers across a variety of platforms. Easily spreading information about weather helps Baron continue to do what the company has always set out to do: define the risk of severe weather quickly and notify affected people as efficiently as possible.