How does one commercialize Earth observation?

One of the great benefits of engaging with space is being able to look back on our own planet. Earth observation is an active area of growth, not just with governments but also in the private sector. One company that specializes in Earth observation is Jupiter Intelligence. It provides services to help customers understand how they will be affected by changes in the Earth system such as climate change. We spoke to Rich Sorkin, Jupiter’s CEO, to learn more about the firm.


How does AI-powered Earth system modeling, turned into tailored services via firms like Jupiter, help customers operate more sustainably?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can improve the accuracy and precision of Earth system models. Better accuracy increases confidence that physical risk predictions derived from these models can support rational decisions. The objective behind many decisions is to improve sustainability and resilience.

Artificial intelligence has been used in weather prediction for decades for such purposes as: modeling short-range forecasting processes; improving the accuracy of numerical weather predictions; and predicting fine-scale weather at ground level from large-scale, physics-based predictions. 

Many techniques can be naturally applied to improve sustainability and resilience, which are often more closely related to climate modeling than weather modeling. Jupiter uses artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy of models, downscale global climate projections to meter-scale, and render predictions far more efficiently than in traditional Earth system modeling

What is Jupiter’s mission and how does it compare to other Earth observation firms?

Jupiter’s mission is to help organizations understand and address risks from severe weather and climate change. The company uses global models that predict asset-level impacts from floods, fire, heat, drought, cold, wind, and hail events at one-meter resolution. Unlike other Earth observation firms, Jupiter focuses on resilience and very specific customer-use cases. Jupiter takes the best data from multiple public and private sources and uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to produce insurance-grade analytics. The company uses the best of global science, which is largely intended for academic and policy audiences, and combines that with Silicon Valley’s best to produce a scalable and reusable support system for various markets – insurance firms, banks, energy producers, critical infrastructure, and the public sector.

What led you to decide to create the company?

I have always been interested in space and weather. I was co-founder of Students for the Exploration and development of Space and worked on the budget for the space station and space debris tracking at NASA. From this early interest in space and weather, in 2008 I co-founded Zeus, a weather prediction service for power producers and commodities traders. Zeus was ahead of its time and ahead of the technology. In 2016, I had the idea that climate impacts were becoming more severe, much faster than almost anyone realized. We reassembled the same team from Zeus, coming back together to establish Jupiter, which provides a more powerful service that predicts the possibility of severe weather damage and climate change for a broader set of customers. Our team spent six months vetting the idea with thought leaders and public-sector leaders, and we concluded there is a real need for better analytics around climate-related risks. Jupiter is now the global leader in data and analytics services to help make informed decisions that safeguard at-risk critical infrastructure from extreme weather, sea-level rise, storm intensification, and rising temperatures caused by short, medium, and long-term climate change.