Better Weather Data with Buck Lyons from WeatherFlow

Even with modern forecasting, weather is unpredictable. We pack up our picnic baskets with the hopes that maybe this time our standard weather apps are right. But if you’re in an industry that performs any work outdoors, an unexpected change in weather can be more than a disappointment—it can be massively expensive.

Both consumers and businesses alike may wish they had more granular forecasts, so they know not merely what the weather might be like in your city that day, but what the weather might be like at a specific pin dropped on a map, and for how long.

Buck Lyons is giving people the answer with his company, Weatherflow Tempest, which offers a proprietary weather station and sophisticated weather data for point-specific forecasting.

More information:

Buck Lyons is co-founder and CEO of WeatherFlow-Tempest Inc, a leading weather technology company.  Buck is also co-founder and current board member of Synoptic Data PBC, a hub for environmental data, and provider of aggregated weather and climate data to NOAA.  Buck is an accomplished multi-time entrepreneur with a history of success stories, most of them involving an element of his passion for the outdoors.

Buck has been working full-time in the weather and climate data space since 2012. He is now leading WeatherFlow-Tempest through a phase of rapid growth as the company scales its real-time weather data and forecast solutions globally. 

WeatherFlow’s mission is to help the world better understand and control the enormous impact of weather. Exclusive data and AI-driven modeling deliver more accurate weather information, resulting in better decision-making and significant cost savings for a range of customers. The company’s revolutionary home weather system, Tempest, launched in early 2020, and already has more than 30,000 systems online.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Buck Lyons 0:00
Then have a better and more precise picture of what temperatures are what weather conditions are throughout our region because we have a lot of Tempest and other data and we’re using our proprietary modeling to indicate how things might change in the short term. So that allows them to more efficiently allocate energy, determine what sort of energy sources they’re going to get.

Alexander Ferguson 0:32
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our apply tech series UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at Today, I’m joined by my guest, Buck Lyons, who’s based in Santa Cruz, California. He’s the CEO at Weatherflow Tempest Inc. Welcome Buck. Good to have you on.

Buck Lyons 0:50
Yeah, great. Great to be on. Thanks for having me.

Alexander Ferguson 0:53
Now, this is a fascinating conversation, because it’s around weather and weather technology. And it’s something that affects all of us. And what’s fascinating is you also are providing solutions to consumers to to mid market to enterprise to nonprofits to government agencies, because I guess weather does affect everyone, right? Nearly everyone, we like to say yes. And everything, frankly, everything. Now, how you accomplish that, obviously, there’s been a journey and to where you guys are focused right now. But let’s start with the footnote of just helping us understand where it began over 20 years ago, is that correct?

Buck Lyons 1:36
Well, I think in terms of Yeah, you were looking at sort of the footnote, origin of the team, and so forth. It started Well, before I was thinking about this kind of business. And also, I’m not a scientist. So we employ a lot of meteorologists and the like, but I’m not one of them. But a couple of my co founders, Philip Atkinson and David St. JOHN. We’re both in the weather business in the business of providing weather people starting back in the 90s, and fill up his kind of his genius engineer type who figured out how to build a better weather station, and then how to make sure he was getting data to flow to it, from it to him. And then David was one of the first to develop a SAS tool, a web interface, to weather information and then deliver it to customers. So they were doing that while I was doing everything. So that’s that’s all back in the day.

Alexander Ferguson 2:42
And then being able to come in 2012, you taking active role as CEO over the last nine years or so, this has been Of course, an evolution of all the technology I mentioned over over time of is both the data, the software as well as physical hardware you guys provide? Is that right? Correct. both hardware and the software and algorithms.

Buck Lyons 3:02
Yeah, well, certainly hardware is a very big part of what we do. So to give you a little bit more of the backstory, I was involved in starting a company and predecessor to weatherflow champion steak in 2000, and corralled David and fell up. Because of the it was, gogo days. And, frankly, really, the extreme is of the bubble, as well as the crash kind of created a hiccup on our original plan. And that meant we had to pivot sort of what we did, it also meant that I really couldn’t draw a salary from and I did not, you know, I really moved away from being my main job for years. But in, in, you know, the company did progress. And in 2012, I joined as CEO and really has been very active since then, in terms of trying to grow that company. And then in 2019, is when we realize we really have the IP base, the technology, the know how the experience and the team to start a company that we could scale, hopefully globally, and to be very large. So weatherflow cimba stanke, originated in 2019. So anyway, I just wanted to clarify that I didn’t, I’m not forgetting your question about hardware and software. hardware is a, you know, the the key component that we have his observational data that others don’t have.

Alexander Ferguson 4:36
And so that what do you mean by observational data that people don’t

Buck Lyons 4:41
be measured? So we have weather stations. So that started back when Philip and David were really doing their thing even before me and in the early, you know, the thoughts.

Alexander Ferguson 4:55
We know they were the ones actually building the stations where we would be getting our data from From right now you actually providing that source of information?

Buck Lyons 5:04
Yeah, they were Yeah, they, they were producing this thing. Now they weren’t selling hardware or, you know, fill up wasn’t selling hardware. He was installing weather stations, maintaining them. And then essentially selling data or tools to better use that data. And, and then the, the idea of using that data to provide a better forecast, of course, was an obvious thing right on the heels of that. So. So that progression of using hardware using weather observation data that not everyone has a, using it to, to create a model forecast that is better is more precise, has been the formula for a while. And so it’s really in when we started this company in 2019, it was the idea of, let’s get that IP that no have and really scale it globally. And one of the new developments was that I’m like, unlike 20 years before, even 10 years before, it’s now very feasible to create an inexpensive device that is very good at producing weather observations and producing them in a connected manner. So you can utilize the data,

Alexander Ferguson 6:32
so more like a consumer electronic solution for

Buck Lyons 6:35
Yeah, exactly. And so we we still actually in our products will license pro net data, the industrial grade network, but uh, but the bulk of the new data is coming from weather station systems that we sell. And that’s primarily been consumer base since we launched this company. But we are coming out with products that are more and more oriented towards small business prosumer.

Alexander Ferguson 7:12
So for I mean, this concept of being able to know around the weather, what’s happening and in providing information, are you guys trying to replace the local weatherman is that is that the aim that everyone can be their own weatherman.

Buck Lyons 7:26
I mean, replay, I don’t know exactly what you mean by weatherman. But I would say that, like the person on TV that delivers your weather. It’s that’s becoming a little bit more dated way to receive weather. But it’s still a good way for some people. And that person may even be getting data from us. So we’re not we’re not knocked out in any way to replace him. But it is, but it is a kind of a dated way to get it. You get

Alexander Ferguson 8:01
a great point. Like we wake up in the morning, we look at our phone, and we swipe over what’s the weather today? So in what way would Are you then kind of playing into someone’s normal ecosystem of of both on a consumer level and a business level? That is it just there they’re getting there a more accurate local data is at the focus of specifically where someone is.

Buck Lyons 8:22
Yeah, I mean, I’d say that where our customers have in common, both business and and individuals is they value and really can get great benefit or return on their investments, so to speak, from a more precise for weather data in which would really our focus is short term forecast. So what it’s doing today, what is going to do today, what you know, what is happening tomorrow, what it’s doing right now, because sometimes, you know, you’re not in a place where you you’re wondering where like, like, What is it? What is it doing out at my favorite rock or whatever?

Alexander Ferguson 9:05
That’s because I’ve asked Alexa, hey, what’s the weather today it’s raining and I’m like, it’s not raining, or and it’s you it’s you know, it’s not always that accurate to exactly where you are.

Buck Lyons 9:16
Right. And it’s a you need, you clearly need one of our template systems so that then Alexa can get it right at your house because we do connect with Alexa.

Alexander Ferguson 9:26
Oh, there we go.

Buck Lyons 9:27
So that’s even one degree worse than I’m talking about or different. I’m talking about how someone might be considering, you know, driving five miles away and getting in their boat and going out fishing. And they’re wondering what the weather conditions are 10 miles away or something. And so and then there’s also like, insurance companies, they’re a big part of our customer base. And so they especially here to be focused on what it’s doing right now or or another natural extension of that, what did it do yesterday? And, or six hours ago, because they’re deploying resources during storms, determining if they’re going to pay a claim. without talking to someone, they love the idea. All right, we know that this guy’s probably had a lot of damage there. He’s asking for money, it’s gonna be good for both of us if we just pay him.

Alexander Ferguson 10:27
And so we help with that kind of thing quite a bit. And it’s just the fact that it’s more accurate than a more general data stream that’s coming does trying to cover a much broader area. Is that right?

Buck Lyons 10:39
Exactly. It’s more accurate and more granular. So we really specialize in knowing kind of at the neighborhood to neighborhood level. What has happening, what is happening, what will happen later today and

Unknown Speaker 10:57

Alexander Ferguson 10:58
There’s a lot of, you know, weather topics that are happening right now, whether it’s the heat wave that’s happening up the West Coast, the north northwest, and also the recent Texas ice ice storm. I mean, how would your product this is going to be involved in more of these larger issues that can happen? What if the weather?

Buck Lyons 11:17
Well, I mean, we’re, you know, I think the energy example you bring up in Texas is a good one, because our kind of how our company affects that, you know, various levels of cycles is, is sort of, I think, very interesting. So, for instance, homeowners who own our Tempest system can save energy, by just utilizing that better forecast in real time data, whether it’s something as simple as setting up a an automated routine, where Alexa tells them to close their shades or open them, or in some cases, people just have it hooked in with their smart home where the thermostat is acting on data and turning down the air conditioning system in anticipation of it being cooler. So So we basically actually guarantee that someone who purchases The Tempest will save energy. And, and there’s a, you know, I mean, I can tell you more about that if you if you want. But but but let me finish the general comment, because I think it’s it’s really indicative of the kind of the synergy between all our customers. So then the local utility, who we are have as customers and provide data to then have a better and more precise picture of what temperatures are, what weather conditions are, throughout our region, because we have a lot of Tempest and other data, and we’re using our proprietary modeling to indicate how things might change in the short term. So that allows them to more efficiently allocate energy determine what sort of energy sources they’re going to get. So that’s, that’s kind of it on a, on a more regional level. And then, you know, that all ties up into saving a lot of energy globally, and, and even helping to make decisions on you know, what fuels what kind of sources we should use in the future, because I getting back to the regional utility besides anticipating demand, based on weather conditions, they also can better understand and anticipate supply from sources renewable sources like wind and solar with better weather information. So it’s, we’re really proud of that level of synergy. And even Of course, as you can imagine, people in our line of business it’s your you have a certain passion for the weather and the world and the environments that you’re always looking for ways. We certainly aim to do good and we’re happy that doing good is good for business, but

Alexander Ferguson 14:21
when the two when the two align for sure, so the data from one of your Tempest solutions your consumer and Tempest solution is aggregate that that is accessible by everyone or by your whole solution.

Buck Lyons 14:36
Yeah, if you buy a tempest, then then you have access to basically other Tempus data, but also our modeling solution to help provide you with a better forecast. It’s

Alexander Ferguson 14:52
really that concept of the modeling. We’ve you’ve mentioned it you’ve talked about it I feel like that’s such a not a simple topic. Like either like this? How caught like how I feel like it’s probably over the 20 years, it’s taken to hone and modify and truly understand what does it take to model the weather? Now, of course, there’s, there’s the pushback on everyone. If I go back to the old of the weatherman, the weatherman is never write it. People always complain that when you look out too far, you know, the weather man said it was gonna rain on Sunday, but actually, it didn’t. How have you guys focused and tried to solve the weather challenge of knowing what the weather will be like?

Buck Lyons 15:36
Well, first of all, you know, of course, you know, everyone, and probably me, and before I was in the business would complain about forecasts, and people still do. But you know, weather forecasting has just gotten better and better and better. So forgetting what weatherflow does. The what NOAA does, when the European European modeling Center does, they’re producing better forecasts than ever, because the technology has progressed,

Alexander Ferguson 16:12
this overall technology, you’re saying has been advancing? Yeah, and gotten better and better. So as you’re saying, it’s not that much of a question of, of the quality or the accuracy of, of technology across the board?

Buck Lyons 16:28
Well, no, I’m saying that it’s very difficult to predict the weather, especially the longer term you go out. We have a as a, you know, the human race has a ways to go. But they have we have gotten better and better. And so part of the reason that weatherflow is so good, is that we do use as a base and a starting point. The global models that as produced by NOAA or ECM wF, that’s you all, even like, a lot of lay people ask me about the European model, because they’ve heard it’s really good. So and it’s your we pay, we pay money to

Alexander Ferguson 17:17
get access to that use

Buck Lyons 17:18
that as our as one of our base basis, but most of those models are relatively low resolution, so they don’t try to estimate the difference beyond sort of 112 kilometer grid to the next. Right. So

Alexander Ferguson 17:37
that’s the resolution the standard for

Buck Lyons 17:39
its resolution for standard. And so then, you know, there’s some subtleties to what they do in that in that regard. But what we do is we run the exact same type of physics based, call it a model called a numerical weather prediction model. After using their model to initialize it on a finer scale at a higher resolution, in, in, in, in impact geographical area, so areas of where where we really need to have better data for our customers, can

Alexander Ferguson 18:18
you give us like a definition on that resolution? I’m in the love technology, overall video resolution, and whatever people are familiar with those terms, but I didn’t know there was a terminology for weather resolution.

Buck Lyons 18:29
But it’s the same idea in terms of you get a clearer picture with more pixels, right? Yeah, exact same thing, where if you only have one pixel every 12 kilometers, the weather can differ quite a bit in there right. But we can run will run numerical weather prediction models down to a resolution of 500 kilometers even I mean 500 meters and and so then and then we use various techniques to post process that data primarily centered on machine learning. So that we can fine tune that forecast down to even much higher resolution than that so where we like to say neighborhood to neighborhood level differences in in forecasts,

Alexander Ferguson 19:20
so you can even know that that a rain cloud is coming in through my neighborhood in the next two hours.

Buck Lyons 19:25
Yeah, and even they might you know, especially if it’s 20 minutes from now might be it’s going over your neighbors has been not yours. So so that’s a and we’re you know, we’re getting better every day. Just let the NOAA and ECM wF are getting better at their job

Alexander Ferguson 19:43
is all of you are able to build off of each other from that from together now is this are able people able to get access to this this data without buying the the the hardware, the technology, the tempest solution, or is it that’s kind of the first piece you buy that and then you get access to everything else?

Buck Lyons 19:59
Well as a, as a consumer, you basically have, we have two different product lines or revenue tranches geared towards consumers. One is, if you buy the tempest weather system, which is includes a piece of hardware, but it’s very much a software as a service with the hardware business, you know, then you gain access to that information. We also have personal apps, which are primarily driven by subscription revenue, we do have advertising and there’s valuable free data. But to get the most valuable data, you pay subscription. And so people, like fishermen, or sailboat racers, or like a new thing that’s growing for us are, we have a product called wind alert. And so drone pilots are subscribing, because you know, they have a valuable piece of equipment and they can’t take it up when it’s windy, they really need to know, right, where they are what the winds doing. So you know, that’s a very fast growing thing for us now. And those people, they don’t want to, I mean, if they’re doing it at their house, they would be there, then having a tempest would be a big help for them. But if they’re driving to a field two miles away, it’s really about our ability to measure data and vary in quite a few places. And then both model the current wind as well as the short term forecast for that area, that’s what’s so valuable to save that customer.

Alexander Ferguson 21:42
And they get that same higher fidelity that you are getting both using machine learning and your access to other data coming in, no matter where someone is they can see that. That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. So what what do you see the future of WeatherTech? Like are in Are we just going to get to the point where your resolution is going to get to such a fine detail that we won’t even talk about resolution? Because in TVs we’re getting so big, high resolution 8k TVs, you don’t even see the pixels anymore? Will we get there with whether we’ll just have perfect resolution?

Buck Lyons 22:17
Yeah, we’re gonna send you a warning to open your umbrella right before. But that may be after I’ve left, at least left the company that I mean, you know, it’s going to be a very gradual progression. And the whole concept of, you know, when a butterfly flaps his wing in India, it changes the way that you know that that expression came because weather is a chaotic system. So small differences in the input variables, create, eventually very large differences in output. So it’s, it’s a difficult thing to predict. But it’s really, I mean, one of the reasons why I got into it is because I’m just amazed by what we can do with physics and math and computers to predicted and the progress we’ve made so that that journey is going to continue in a very steady gradual way.

Alexander Ferguson 23:15
What do you see is the major roadblocks that are need to be overcome, for for, for progress to be made in weather technology, and for the consumption of

Buck Lyons 23:24
it, I certainly don’t think of anything being big. Like, right now we are at an inflection point where it feels like the doors are wide open. So for instance, where weather forecasting was the domain of national debt agencies globally. And the original private weather industry was more about packaging that information. Maybe having a meteorologist help interpret it, like the guy on TV talking about now, the private weather industry is increasingly adding value. way I described weatherflow doing it. And so and what has really been started to be embraced is the cooperation between government met agencies and private weathers. And I think that’s just a very exciting to see. And we we really are. It’s funny, because you have some people who are you know, government needs to do this, we need to do everything. And that would be nice, but I don’t know how, where the budgets gonna come from,

Alexander Ferguson 24:51
and I afford in the end,

Buck Lyons 24:53
and then you have people in private industry who are like, Oh, the private sector can do all this better. Whatever. We solidly have a foot in both camps. One is that the private weather industry making investments is, is really providing critical data and, you know, as a taxpayer, do you really want to pay for that insurance company to, you know, if they’re gonna if they are willing to pay Do you really want to pay for them? And but the flip side is I think NOAA nws and other Medicis around the world play a very important role around public safety for everyone, huh? Like, I see marketing around, oh, you know, if you have a school, pay for our service, and your kids will be safer, that’s that I hate that we are all about, like, it’s one of the reasons why we deliver our data from whether flow temp is for free to nws because we embraced their role as really like, like, if it comes to hurricanes or major events, major storms, they, I really think they should be the voice telling people what to do, we should be have the role of providing them data to help and to then include their watches and warnings in our products. And, and it’s you know, there’s, there’s certain subtle situations where, you know, there’s lightning near your house or your school where our products might be involved. But on this broad scale, I think it’s very important that we support them because it’s, you know, who else is going to take care of the guy in the trailer, like famously trailing practices susceptible to weather like, you know, it’s,

Alexander Ferguson 26:57
I appreciate your focus on that cooperation, that that that duality of focus of integration between government and for profit side, it’s like there’s a there is a happy place where the two can work together.

Buck Lyons 27:11
Yeah, and I and so I see that happening. And it’s it’s been a kind of a project of mine for quite a while and it’s fun to see it working much better.

Alexander Ferguson 27:24
Just Just for fun for you. I’m curious, are there any technologies that if you really enjoy these days as a question I always like to ask everybody because we all have our favorite software app or this that we’re using anything come to mind? You mean beyond everything we do? We like Yeah, yeah. Beyond you just just for you personally, like I’m just curious if there’s any ones that you enjoy.

Buck Lyons 27:50
I mean, I just, I mean, it’s it’s it’s kind of a pretty broad old school kind of thing or it’s not very new but I love being able to stay connected and work like I’m working from a vacation house today. I love that and i and i and i do mostly pride myself in kind of having this stuff work for me like famously people you know, it is I think a problem people can stay too connected but um, I that overall technology, I like to move around I like to you know, backcountry ski and i i actually try to avoid it through email from the top of mountains but I

Alexander Ferguson 28:44
like the ability to if you need

Buck Lyons 28:46
yeah or or at least you know from from the house I rented nearby that I didn’t need that I think it’s a that’s not a particularly new aspect of the the way the rules changed but but it is the thing that I really love

Alexander Ferguson 29:04
if you had a futuristic tech technology that doesn’t exist yet but could come into existence may wave a magic wand and say I can have this what would that be?

Buck Lyons 29:17
Probably would be having my wife be able to comfortably travel with me and and that also to be with our dogs and take care of her garden, which is more or less a farm at the same time.

Alexander Ferguson 29:35
The same time travel and be Hmm, that would be teleportation.

Buck Lyons 29:40
I guess like going home for a couple hours the teleportation or having a robot that you could view everything through so you felt like you were home. I

Alexander Ferguson 29:53
put on a VR goggles have a robot that you can just yeah, I’m actually now that you’ve got me thinking about this. Maybe Maybe that could be a next business hearing some sort of element

Buck Lyons 30:04
of option here I, I’d like to think about it’s it’s top of mind for me based on a conversation or in my wife this morning. So that’s probably why why

Alexander Ferguson 30:17
I feel like we’re more and more your your previous statement of what you enjoy about technology remote, being able to keep doing things and your reference of what you’d like to have are both connected. And I feel like all of us are only going more and more into a remote work environments and remote opportunities. So technology to connect is going to be key. And then wherever you go, you’ll have great access to weather data using weather flow, right?

Buck Lyons 30:41
You know, weather there, you can use your computer outside. Yeah.

Alexander Ferguson 30:45
And then you get a notification to your phone because the resolution is gonna be so great. Oh, it’s time to go inside. That’s right.

Buck Lyons 30:53
Yeah, so subscribe to weatherflow and, you know, one of our personal apps and you can take care of everything. I love it. I love it. Thank

Alexander Ferguson 31:01
you so much for helping us understand that the journey you guys have been on and the focus and where you guys are headed. For those that want to learn more, you can go to and be able to explore some of the products there. Thanks again for your time. Bye.

Buck Lyons 31:16
Hey, thank you. I really enjoyed it. It’s my pleasure.

Alexander Ferguson 31:19
I will see you all on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live work and do business? Go to and let us know


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