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Apr 11, 2016

Weather industry luminary joins Spire, a satellite data provider

Satellite-powered data company, Spire, announces today that Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald has joined Spire to lead a group to test the use of Spire Radio Occultation soundings in weather assimilation and prediction models. 

Spire has deployed the world’s first commercial weather satellite network and continues to strengthen it with month-on-month launches, producing 100,000 GNSS Radio Occultation (GNSS-RO) profiles per day in 2017.  Dr. MacDonald and his team are developing a research-focused assimilation and prediction system that is optimized for testing the impact of high-volume RO data, enabling Spire to internally validate the quality of its data and to demonstrate the impact on forecasting accuracy. The team also serves as a weather and modeling center of expertise that will provide support to Spire customers on the uses of RO data.

“Spire cares tremendously about understanding our customer needs,” said Peter Platzer, CEO at Spire. “Dr. MacDonald’s team will provide us with deep insight into how customers are using or could use our data, and to demonstrate how our data contributes to saving lives and property through a better understanding of extreme weather events.”

Dr. MacDonald is the former director of NOAA’s largest research facility, the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL), and was the 2015 President of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).  In addition to receiving numerous awards from the federal government, Dr. MacDonald holds the patent for Science on a Sphere ©, a luminous animated globe installed in more than 100 museums around the world. 

“After many years in the public sector, I am excited to be joining a dynamic organization that has a vision for improved weather forecasting that matches my own, with a clear ability to implement it,” said Dr. MacDonald. At Spire, Dr. MacDonald will also be developing advanced energy design systems for the global market, similar to that demonstrated for the US in a recent paper he published in Nature Climate Change.

Dr. MacDonald’s team, based in Boulder, Colorado, expects to work closely with the US community modeling effort and the COSMIC II program, reflecting Spire’s wider belief in public-private-academic partnerships. 


About Dr. MacDonald

Dr. Alexander E. (Sandy) MacDonald retired from over 40 years of federal service in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on January 3, 2016. He was a Senior Executive since 1990 and President of the American Meteorological Society in 2015.  His retirement came after 10 years as Director of NOAA’s largest research laboratory, the Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado.  Prior to ESRL, Sandy worked as Chief Science Advisor for NOAA’s research line and Deputy Assistant Administrator and as Director of NOAAs Forecast Systems Laboratory from 1988 to 2005.  He is the inventor of NOAA’s Science On a Sphere, an educational exhibit now in over 130 museums worldwide and had the opportunity to work with Vice President Al Gore to start the GLOBE Program in 1994.  

Dr. MacDonald recently published (January 25, 2016) an article in Nature Climate Change, titled “Future cost-competitive electricity systems and their impact on US CO2 emissions” that was ranked in the 99th percentile of impact by Altimetric.  The article presents results that show the US could reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80% by 2030, by implementing a High Voltage Direct Current transmission network. The article presents a solution to greenhouse gas emissions that could be implemented now with existing technology, and would be also be feasible in other major economies such as Europe, China and India.

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