Insurance and Climate Change column

Startup Modeler Jupiter Wants to Better Predict Impacts of Climate Change

By | March 1, 2018

A startup modeling firm named Jupiter is reaching for the stars in its quest to better model for the impacts of climate change.

The firm recently launched what its calling a “transformative cloud-based technology platform,” noting in its promotional literature that there are more than $100 trillion dollars in global assets endangered by extreme weather and climate change, yet there is no commonly accepted method for quantifying that risk and its potential economic impact.

Their platform is designed to address that gap.

Jupiter’s ClimateScore cloud platform enables decision makers to “confidently predict and manage risk caused by severe weather and medium- to long-term climate change at a hyper-local level.”

Simply put, Jupiter’s platform ingests and makes physics-based and AI-powered decisions on petabytes of data from millions of ground-based and orbital sensors.

On second thought, maybe that’s not so simply put.

What the firm means is that it will deliver hyper-local data analysis street-by-street or even in individual building resolution with predictions ranging from two hours to 50 years into the future.

In April 2027 DCVC (Data Collective) led a seed round, and Jupiter recently added to those resources with over $8 million in Series A funding led by Ignition Partners and joined by DCVC, bringing total investments in the firm to roughly $10 million.

Rich Sorkin, CEO and co-founder of Jupiter, when pressed for a non-technical explanation as to why his firm plans to be able to offer something other established modelers aren’t, said the secret to the precision data they are offering is in the people at Jupiter.

The firm has former scientists from NOAA and other notable weather and climate organizations, and Sorkin, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, was formerly president of a machine learning company that Google purchased a few years back.

According to a bio on Sorkin complied by Bloomberg, he has pioneered the adoption of new technology for more than 20 years and at one point ran the billion-dollar Sound Blaster business. Since 1998, he has served as an advisor to several early-stage Internet companies.

Also on the executive team is Eric Wun, formerly with Google, Zip2 and Wells Fargo Bank, Betsy Weatherhead, who was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a key contributor to the oft-cited IPCC report, and Alan Blumberg, an well-known oceanographer and modeler.

To go along with Sorkin’s impressive background, he has a great deal of confidence in what Jupiter can do to help better predict climate and climate change-driven severe weather.

“There’s no one in the world that has the kind of technical chops around these issues than Jupiter has,” Sorkin said.

He noted that the firm has already created modeling used by port authorities of New York and New Jersey.

According to him, Jupiter is already working with property owners that have portfolios ranging from $1 billion to close to $100 billion.

“We’re working directly with the large reinsurance companies,” he added. “We’re also working with at least one of the globally recognized major insurance brokers.”

He declined to offer specifics of what deals he has with which insurance entities.

In the firm’s own words, Jupiter’s approach to climate prediction is more relevant to addressing climate change risks, among other things, because:

  • Asset-Specific Predictions: Jupiter’s ClimateScore platform provides a complete picture down to the most hyper-local (street-by-street or individual building) resolution levels, enabling more practical risk assessment and better decision making.
  • Dynamic Climate Assessments: While current models of risk assessment and management assume an unchanging climate (commonly referred to as the “stationarity” assumption), Jupiter factors in expectations of a changing climate, which adjusts dynamically based on the most current data. This approach relies on current science and observations rather than historical data alone.
  • State-of-the-Art Modeling: Jupiter continuously fine-tunes its models, using the latest data from satellites and sensors rather than relying on one-time climate studies. Jupiter’s Earth and Ocean Systems experts quickly and routinely adjust input assumptions or variables to create up-to-date models that provide the best possible predictions with known information, even as the science and observations evolve.
  • Verification and Validation Metrics: Jupiter’s platform includes verification and validation modules, generating the data that drives confidence among financial services users who rigorously assess the statistical strength of these models.

That’s a mouthful. One thing’s for certain, with a number of other prominent and well-respected modeling firms also turning their attention to climate change, the insurance industry and property owners aren’t going to be hurting for data.

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