As weather becomes increasingly erratic with climate change, it’s more challenging to predict how storms and other weather events affect us at the ground level. But a local start-up wants to change that by capturing weather data in real-time, right in your backyard.

Understory is a weather-tracking company based out of Greentown Labs in Somerville. The company has developed small weather stations in the form of silvery orbs. They bear an almost identical resemblance to those decorative spheres you may see in gardens, only Understory’s orbs gather data and analyze weather patterns—and you can place them anywhere.

Traditionally, weather data is gathered from satellite and radar at the Earth’s atmosphere. Understory’s CEO Alex Kubicek says the information they collect at the ground-level can offer more accuracy.

“That’s looking 45, 60, 100 thousand feet above the ground. And that provides a great picture of the sky but doesn’t exactly translate to what’s happening on the ground. So that’s where our stations are-- located at the ground where people and  business are, so we can provide valuable insights to really help improve every day life.” Kubicek said.

Understory has these orbs placed on roofs all over Dallas, Kansas City, and Somerville, MA. The goal is to gather as much real-time weather data as possible. They are working closely with some of the country’s largest insurance companies so they can better address hail damage claims from property owners. “When you’re tracking hail with radar it looks kind of like a big blob of stuff in the sky. And so our algorithms take that stuff and try to figure out where it’s going to fall.” Kubicek said.

Understory also recently partnered up with Monsanto after the big-ag company invested $7.5 million so they can implement these weather stations in farms across the U.S. “You really need to know how much rain is hitting certain farms so you can understand different types of yield rates at those locations and our devices can go a long way helping with that.” Kubicek said.

The orbs are sensitive to anything that touches their surface, and by studying atmospheric force, using sensors and applying their top-secret micro-processing technology, these weather stations can detect any shift in weather patterns per second. From the size and speed of hail and raindrops, to wind direction and speed, temperature and humidity.

The Understory team even jury-rigged a t-shirt cannon so they could mimic hail hurtling towards a roof at terminal velocity. Combine all that with technology that can capture thousands of data points per second—and you could really geek out on the level of hyper-local micro-data these things put out. But it’s exactly the kind of data the City of Somerville wants.

Somerville has partnered up with Understory to pilot these orbs. They have one on the roof of Somerville High School. Oliver Sellers-Garcia, director of office of sustainability and environment for Somerville says this kind of weather data is valuable to the city’s public works department.

When we started this up a little over a year ago, the DPW was just coming off of a very serious winter, and they were thinking that the precipitation, temperature, humidity-- all of that information could help them more precisely gauge the type of street cleaning that they would have to do in the winter.” Sellers-Garcia said.

Utility companies could also benefit by knowing exactly where they’d need to dispatch crews immediately after a storm, instead of waiting for calls from residents. Sellers-Garcia also says weaving this kind of mundane weather data into how cities and towns operate is a small but meaningful step toward tackling the effects of climate change.

“I think having a greater sensitivity to the changes in weather on a daily basis and how unpredictable it’s starting to become and matching that with our service delivery is really something that is pretty innovative.” Sellers-Garcia said.