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June 10, 202010 min read

Cities Rely On Weather More Than Ever

Even in a country such as New Zealand, which has recently been declared COVID-free, it’s hard to imagine a complete return to normal life. We’ll likely look back on COVID-19 and cite 2020 as the year everything changed — and one of the biggest things will be how cities and government officials use weather to manage the health of their communities.

In fact, a recent study from Harvard found a direct link between the weather, air quality, and COVID-19 infections. But with more information coming out each day, it’s incredibly challenging for city governments to manage weather and health data quickly.

Here is the reality for most cities right now:

  • Second waves of COVID-19 imminent for the next 12-18 months
  • Lockdown not sustainable during that time, as we’re already seeing people in public again
  • Large gatherings (which are directly impacted by weather) offer new challenges and risks cities have never faced before
  • Cities will need to prepare for a new way of life, or else be exposed to additional health risks

The weather has a massive impact on businesses, organizations, and communities. With predictive technology to help people take control of the impact of weather, leaders can take action before it’s too late.

We created a couple mock dashboards from our HyperCast product to look at some of the ways cities can visualize and plan ahead as people start going outside again in public, and the impact that will have on public health. Let’s start with the weather elements.

Tracking Weather Elements and COVID-19

Temperature:

The question on everyone’s mind, does temperature impact the spread or survival rate of COVID-19? Here’s what Science Daily recently published: “Researchers looked at the impact of temperature, precipitation, and UV index on COVID-19 case rates in the United States during the spring months of 2020. The findings reveal that while the rate of COVID-19 incidence does decrease with warmer temperatures up until 52 degrees F, further warmer temperatures do not decrease disease transmission significantly.”

Now, while the findings here may not be overly significant, they do offer some benefit. In addition, we do know of course that temperature impacts outdoor gatherings and crowds quite a bit, so there are actually multiple reasons to monitor temperature.

Wind Speed and Humidity:

Researchers from Oklahoma State University and elsewhere recently published a study posted to the National Center for Biotechnology Information focused on the influence of wind and humidity on the effectiveness of social distancing given specific weather conditions. The findings highlight specific weather conditions including wind and humidity when the 6 feet social distancing recommendations may not be enough. Continued research will help shed more light on the exact weather parameters to focus on, but at a high level keeping track of wind speed and humidity can be helpful inputs for community safety.

Air Quality:

Outside of the fact that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, air quality and air pollution are more important than ever to help cities protect their people espcially as some regions of the world are reporting worse air quality than before COVID-19 began. On days of heightened risk, certain demographic groups need to stay inside or stay out of high risk areas.

As you can see, having an understanding of the expected weather in advance can help communities and individuals better plan their lives, and stay out of harms way. Now let’s look specifically at some of the organizations that are impacted by weather + COVID-19 and how they can use predictive weather impact dashboards to better prepare.

Organizational Planning and Management

Hospitals:

An unexpected increase in COVID-19 cases or an outbreak can be an operational nightmare for hospitals and their ability to provide adequate patient care. Everything from not having enough staff, resources, beds, rooms, masks…etc. While we can’t predict exactly when an outbreak will happen, we can look to the weather as a way to better understand past outbreaks and the likelihood of more future cases. For instance, if the weather is enjoyable and there’s a large gathering planned in a specific city or area, the local hospitals can prepare days in advance of a possible outbreak, and have contingency plans fully updated and ready to go.

Law Enforcement:

Large gatherings or places where a sizable number of people congregate like parks are now of heightened interest to law enforcement. These types of gatherings can be monitored in advance based on the hyperlocal locations of parks or venues, and expected attendance numbers can be predicted based on the weather. For instance, larger crowds are more likely to gather on warm sunny days. Also, if there’s unexpected weather like rain, this will cause crowds to disperse quickly which again can put people at risk of social distancing so protocols could be put into place ahead of time to help reduce unnecessary risk.

Supermarkets and Food Access:

A simple trip to the grocery store isn’t so simple these days, with waiting lines just to get in the door and a number of people shifting to online delivery. As communities think about incoming weather such as hurricanes or major storms, it was quite common in the past to expect a rush to grocery stores for people to “stock up” on food and water. While this behavior may have been acceptable level of chaos for communities in the past, this type of unplanned consumer behavior now starts to pose real health risks and potential shortages for certain communities if not planned for ahead of time.

Virus Spread Risk:

As you think about all the examples given in this post, it’s easy to see how every community is at different risk on a daily basis. The ability to alert communities of any potential increase in virus spread risk can help people plan ahead and ensure additional safety for people at higher risk, and the way to do that is to proactively monitor both the weather but more importantly the impact of weather.

The Opportunity Ahead

As we move forward, a few opportunities are at the forefront of significantly improving how cities and organizations can plan ahead. Here’s what we know:

  • There’s high interest in weather, as it impacts decisions for everyone at all levels of society everyday
  • We can use predictive weather insights to understand how society will behave days in advance
  • Using that information, cities can proactively implement plans of action based on the societal impact of the weather to:
    • Reduce risk to people and assets
    • Benefit from immense cost savings
    • Increase efficiency 
    • Improve preparedness
    • Proactively communicate with residents

The last point to make here is that our opportunity to take all of the contributing weather factors and relate them to community behavior in an actionable way will rely on the weather data granularity at a hyperlocal level. Simply put, this means there can’t be one forecast for a city or even town. The weather forecast differs from one area of the city to the next, from one neighborhood to another so we need to stop thinking about the “forecast for Boston or San Francisco” and think about the hyperlocal forecasts in the “North End or the Marina District.” This will allow us to offer the best advice and guidance for everyone at all times based on the weather data we have readily available.

To learn more about how your organization can leverage ClimaCell to better plan ahead, simply contact one of our weather impact experts now.

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