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Research / Discovery

CSU precipitation data to be used globally

November 18, 2013
By Kortny Rolston

Precipitation data collected by Colorado State University's Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere is going global with the help of a local software company.

CSU is partnering with aWhere, a software company based in Wheat Ridge, to make satellite-generated precipitation data for developing regions of Africa, Asia and Central America available to the public. The company distributes detailed weather information via a free version of its Location Intelligence Platform.

 aWhere is making CSU precipitation data for developing regions of Africa, Asia and Central America available to the public.It’s a first for CIRA, which has long supplied data to National Weather Service forecasters.

“With this platform, we can easily share this data with the mass public,” said Andrew Jones, a senior research scientist at CIRA. “We’ve never done that before.”

It’s also the first time CIRA’s precipitation data has been licensed to a private company.

Working together

Jones and his colleagues began working with aWhere after the company's CEO, John Corbett, made a presentation on the weather platform and how humanitarian organizations and others use it to improve food security and promote sustainable development.

aWhere provides extensive data on weather variables, including humidity, solar radiation, and temperature for areas that lack accurate information. Users interact with gridded data (5.6 x 5.6 mile sections) through maps, graphs and table tools in near real time.

“The light bulb just went on and I realized our data could be useful to the people who access the (aWhere) platform,” Jones said.

CIRA derives its data from polar-orbiting satellites and uses sensors to capture specific observations. Jones and other  researchers  have developed algorithms to turn the steady stream of data into useful information.

A good fit

CSU formalized its partnership with aWhere earlier this year with a licensing agreement negotiated by CSU Ventures, the University’s technology commercialization arm.

Jones and his CIRA colleagues provide precipitation data for specific regions in Africa, Asia and Central America for the aWhere system. Once integrated into aWhere’s system, these data become publicly available through the platform.

“aWhere’s system overlaid nicely with (Jones’ work),” said Rodman Tompkins of CSU Ventures. “This is a new audience for his research. aWhere’s platform makes it accessible to lay people.”

More accurate data

The company started rolling out the CSU-compiled data this fall.

Lizzy Leighty, aWhere’s communications associate, said the company views the CSU data as an upgrade to its platform. aWhere has long included precipitation data in its weather module, but Leighty said CSU’s information is better.

“It’s more accurate than past sources and has better resolution,” she said.

Accurate precipitation data is an important component of the aWhere platform.

Many of aWhere’s users rely on it to help plan crops, and evaluate food production.

“Most of our clients work in agriculture in Africa or south Asia. Having accurate, localized precipitation data makes a huge impact on their decisions,” Leighty said.

That CSU’s data could help aid food production and assist developing countries is one reason Jones pursued the relationship with aWhere.

“Getting this information out to people who need it is great,” he said. “We hope this relationship with aWhere continues to grow. The end-use is amazing.”