Sep 9, 2021 - Energy & Environment

First look: After Ida, flood forecasting gets a boost from Tomorrow.io

Image of a computer model for predicting floods in New York City.
Tomorrow.io's flood forecasting interface. Screenshot: Tomorrow.io

Tomorrow.io, the fast-growing weather and climate intelligence provider, unveiled Thursday a flood risk index for its data platform. The goal is to help cities, companies and others better prepare for extreme precipitation events.

Why it matters: The new product, first revealed by Axios, arrives following devastating flooding from Hurricane Ida, which left dozens dead in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York last week.

Driving the news: The new forecasting tool is being released as climate scientists express more confidence in the link between extreme precipitation events, which can cause damaging flooding and human-caused global warming.

Details: According to the company, the flood risk index uses both publicly accessible and in-house hydrologic models, along with historical data on runoff and streamflow to identify the risk of river and urban flooding up to five days in advance at any spot on the globe.

  • The model and weather intelligence platform — you can think of its function as a weather and climate version of a Bloomberg terminal — is designed to alert designated personnel at a company or city-level if the risk of flooding exceeds certain criteria.
  • It can also recommend that they take particular pre-selected actions, such as closing floodgates to protect city infrastructure, preparing an emergency alert message and others.

Yes, but: Flood forecasting, particularly five days ahead of time, is extremely complex. It involves variables ranging from instantaneous rainfall rates to data on preceding precipitation to determine how much new water the ground can absorb.

  • There are also established, more focused competitors in the field of flood monitoring, modeling and forecasting, such as Fathom and the nonprofit First Street Foundation, though some are dedicated more to catastrophe risk management.

Between the lines: Tomorrow.io is a well-funded, brash upstart in the weather business, with a vision that now extends into space. It counts among its customers Uber, United, Delta and National Grid.

  • The company plans to launch a constellation of more than two-dozen radar-carrying satellites beginning late next year, which it claims could revolutionize forecasting for the billions of people who live outside of ground-based radar coverage, mainly in developing nations.
  • On Tuesday, Tomorrow.io, also revealed it was selected as a subcontractor on a project aimed at helping the U.S. stay competitive in the field of weather computer modeling, via a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Raytheon.
  • The company's role will be to help build a cloud-based Earth modeling system for the new public-private Earth Prediction and Innovation Center.
Go deeper