The Summer 2014 Weather Summit at Lyndon State College with project partners from Velco, IBM, and Lyndon State College, taken on the John H. Marshall Observation Deck.

LSC’s Vt. Institute of Applied Meteorology Receives $200,000 from VLITE

Working with IBM’s “Deep Thunder” Project

October 2, 2014

Lyndon State College’s Atmospheric Sciences Department and its Vermont Institute of Applied Meteorology (VIAM) were awarded $200,000 from VLITE (Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity), a public benefit and nonprofit corporation. The support allows VIAM to conduct a three-year applied research project along with Vermont Electric Power Company (Velco) and IBM’s “Deep Thunder” project. The research aim is to better understand how adverse weather affects Vermont’s electric infrastructure and integration of renewable energy into the grid.

The project benefits are two-fold: to improve weather-driven power outage forecasting across Vermont’s complex terrain and to conduct a survey of how Vermont’s changing climate may impact utility infrastructure and future renewable energy production. Atmospheric Sciences Associate Professor Jason Shafer, who is managing the project at Lyndon, said, “These activities will engage our students in real-world learning, and position the VIAM to become a regional leader in cutting-edge applied weather forecasting research.” VIAM will conduct research that will help the weather analysts at Velco’s Weather Analytics Center and the “Deep Thunder” team to produce more accurate weather forecasts.

Deep Thunder was born in 1996, when IBM began exploring the “business of weather,” hyper-local, short-term forecasting and customized weather modeling for clients. The goal of the project was to enable reliable, affordable, high-resolution numerical weather prediction for a variety of applications.

With the right combination of precision weather prediction and business analytics insights, a utility company can better prepare for the after effects of a major storm. The team could record what kind of damage was caused to power lines or telephone poles, and why. By coupling that with a hyper-local forecast, utility companies can plan for how many repair crews would be needed, and where.

There are multiple benefits resulting from the VIAM research project. Shafer said, “The data will help anticipate vulnerabilities by location and type of weather event leading to a more accurate severe weather prediction and shorter wait time for consumers for service restoration after a weather-driven outage. We can also increase our understanding of how climate change affects long-term renewable energy production and strengthen expertise within Vermont on extreme weather and climate connections.”

“We can also develop datasets with knowledge transferrable to other weather-and climate-sensitive economic activities like agriculture, tourism, and winter sports areas. Local and state services such as winter road maintenance could be deployed more efficiently with detailed information about precisely when and where snow and/or ice will occur.”

“This positions VIAM to play a larger role relating Vermont’s economic activity to weather and climate variability.”

VIAM engages Atmospheric Sciences students at Lyndon State in experiential learning opportunities, through weather forecasting, applied research integrating weather variability, and climatological studies. These opportunities put students in faculty-supervised positions where they produce unique weather products and then communicate them to clients.

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