As a boy I would be unable to sleep at night in anticipation of winter blizzards and the beauty of a world bathed in snow. That fascination with weather led me to a career that allowed me to live out my dream helping customers cope with the impacts of weather and climate in society.

It is a good reminder on World Meteorological Day that almost every element of our lives is touched by the weather in some way. From the price we pay for food to decisions involving a golf outing or outdoor BBQ - much depends on weather and climate.

For national economies and businesses, this has huge cost implications. 2015 was the third wettest year on record in the US, and saw ten weather or climate-related disasters that each caused at least US$1 billion in damage.

  • Research firm Planalytics estimated that warmer US weather in November and December cost speciality apparel stores US$572 million in lost revenue.
  • In the UK, the Federation of Small Businesses estimates that one day of lost productivity from a snowstorm can cost up to £1 billion per day.
  • Routine variations in weather are estimated to cost the European Union €406 billion.
  • The Brazilian drought during early 2014 in the coffee growing regions cost an estimated US$4 billion.
  • A single day of lost drilling by an oil rig due to severe weather can mean millions of dollars in extra costs, a not infrequent problem in harsh climates like the North Atlantic Ocean.

Can the cost of such weather disruptions be reduced?

Recent advances in computing have made it possible to better quantify this uncertainty, and to harness it in ways that allow businesses to better understand their exposure to risk - from small scale but destructive events like hail, to long term yet costly climate events such as drought. Those that are able to incorporate weather and climate predictions with a range of uncertainty are better able to plan for business disruptions and gain a competitive edge.

I have the privilege of managing Amec Foster Wheeler’s Met-Ocean services group where we are partnering with our customers to help them improve efficiency, safety and sustainability.

  • Predicting pavement temperatures for roads leads to safer travel and more optimal salt treatments of snow and ice, help the environment.
  • Offshore customers receiving warnings of severe waves that reach in excess of 10 metres helps to save money, lives and time.
  • Hydro-meteorological modeling and alerting of flood events that exceed 20 year extremes, helps emergency response organizations better plan for catastrophic events.
  • Insurance companies are also better able to anticipate extreme weather that can cause millions in claims.

World Meteorological Day is a reminder of the majesty and beauty of weather – as well as its potential for destruction. A reminder of how, like never before, we are able to prepare and manage for its effects with the combined help of meteorological expertise and technology.