Dr Bill Gail is one of the founders of Global Weather Corporation (http://www.globalweathercorp.com/2015site/) and has had a long professional career connected with earth systems science and remote sensing. He has been recently appointed Co-chair of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Decadal Survey for Earth Science and Applications from Space (http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DEPS/ESAS2017/index.htm), replacing Dr Antonio Busalacchi (now President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research).
Global Weather Corporation specialises in delivering high-precision weather forecast to public and private customers. The company uses freely available weather models developed, inter alia, by NCAR or the European Centre for Medium Term Weather Forecast and different meteorological agencies in Europe, to produce forecasts that are few notches more precise than any others in the market. Seemingly small forecast improvements (which can be tenths of a grade for temperature, or just a few knots for wind speed) can have an economically high importance for businesses. For example, precise road surface temperature forecast, notably in winter, is important for road transport companies and may generate significant savings resulting from improved delivery times and fleet maintenance. More precise wind speed forecast can help companies operating wind turbines in making more accurate energy production forecasts and therefore better adjust pricing. Global Weather Corporation is based in Boulder and employs 10 people.
I asked Dr Gail about the importance of the Decadal Survey particularly from a commercial standpoint. Dr Gail underlined that his involvement in the Survey is not connected with his space-related commercial activities, but it rather stems from his broad interest in science and remote sensing. He pointed out that the best way to illustrate the importance for this exercise is the fact that all the recommendations of the first survey (2007) were taken up by NASA. (The 2012 midterm assessment of NASA’s implementation of the 2007 Decadal Survey states: NASA responded favorably and aggressively to the 2007 decadal survey, embracing its overall recommendations for Earth observations, missions, technology investments, and priorities for the underlying science. As a consequence, the science and applications communities have made significant progress over the past 5 years). While Dr Gail points out that there have been issues with delays and cost increases in the implementation of some of those recommendations, he hopes that the present survey recommendations will be taken just as seriously as those of the previous one.
Dr Gail stated that the development of commercial applications from space is the natural consequence of the free and open access data policy that the US established with regards to data produced by publicly funded remote sensing systems. The fact that Europe has followed the same approach is good news for all. He believes that the emergence of a variety of ecosystems, where there are increasing interactions between data producers and providers, marketable application developers and users, is what will make commercial space activity grow. These ecosystems can be left to their own devices so that they grow out of natural synergies or, preferably, can be encouraged and supported through public policies which will likely accelerate growth.