I am a fan of saying that science should be fun. Apparently at least one of the forecasters in the Seattle NWS office feels the same way. At 2:30am on Sunday morning, this particular forecaster wrote a discussion that will likely become one of the more famous ever. Enjoy. Also, thanks to a former classmate, Angela Rowe, now at UW for pointing this out.
Since the first indications came out several years ago that we might be able to use the attenuation of cell phone signals to measure precipitation near the surface at unprecedented resolution, I have been anxiously waiting further development of the idea. This week Nature (http://www.nature.com/news/mobile-phone-signals-bolster-street-level-rain-forecasts-1.21799) published a short report on the progress of one company trying to commercialize the technology. Particulars of this company aside, the fact that the use of cell phone signals to measure precipitation is mature enough that someone is working to sell the data is really exciting. For most folks, high resolution precipitation data will mean better, hyper local forecasting in locations with lots of active cell phone users. That’s exciting, but ultimately a little fleeting. I see the real promise of this technology being that it will contribute significantly to our understanding of clouds and precipitation at very small scales. A super high resolution tool has been missing from our research toolbox for too long. Better understanding of clouds will lead to better forecasts everywhere. I can’t wait.