The new Met Office NWP visualiser beta

Courtesy of the Met Office

Well it’s now well past 12 o’clock so this article is not another April fool like the one I wrote earlier bemoaning the fact that the Met Office never release any of their NWP data. I received a comment from one of my readers this morning informing me that the Met Office do have plans afoot to publish their NWP data. They kindly sent me a link to a beta of a new NWP visualiser that the Met Office have been working on. I don’t know what plans the Met Office have for it, and if or when it will be released. Of course this might be old news to many of you, because with a track record like mine, and the way I have lambasted the old firm over the last eight years, I could well have been the last to know about this new venture. Whoever sent me the link must know that I wouldn’t be able to keep this news to myself, my wife is always telling me that I can never keep a secret, so here are a few screenshots to give you a better idea of what they are up to.

My first reaction is that the OpenStreet mapping they are using is quite responsive and that global model data layers are easy to navigate. I should imagine they are using the cloud somehow to access their image tiles which are displaying current rather than canned data. You can select three different NWP models:

  • Met Office Global Model
  • ECMWF IFS Model
  • NCEP GFS Model

And here are all the top level NWP fields that you can display:

The resolution of the NWP data looks to be around one degree but I could be wrong. This is fine as long as you don’t zoom in too far, it extends out to T+144 in six hourly time steps, which in my opinion is far too crude – why not hourly for the first 48 hours? Animation is possible and is quite smooth. As well as displaying NWP data you can also access layers of UK weather radar and global visible satellite imagery. Layers are pretty simple in that you can’t stack layer on layer, for example you can’t overlay weather radar over a visible satellite layer, which would be useful.

Courtesy of the Met Office

The mean sea level pressure using colour filled contouring is not a good idea in my opinion and looks rather unscientific. Isolines and isobars take some beating, and although adding contours from gridded data in a desktop application might be easy to implement, they don’t lend themselves to a browser solution like this where tiled images are created remotely on a server before being pushed into the cloud, so adding contours looks like a no-no.

Animated streamlines are a nice touch, but again contours to pick out the core of a jetstream would be even better. Wind speeds in mph in the legend gives me the impression that this visualiser has either been produced by non-meteorologists or it’s intended for an enthusiast who doesn’t know what a knot is!

I suppose eventually they may add user-definable settings that will let you choose which units you would like to use, but again you may the need a second set of tiled images for winds in knots and winds in mph, so we might be stuck with mph unless we can fudge it by providing multiple legends.

I see there’s a link in the app that allows you to send your feedback to the Met Office about what you think about the visualiser, I call it “visualiser” because so far its not been given a name, hopefully this beta will get released in the not too distant future, and hopefully they won’t end up giving it a daft name such as Horace, Nimbus or MIST.

In conclusion

Personally of all the NWP visualisers on the web at the moment I like the solution that wxcharts.com employs. They don’t use a fancy interactive map like in this Met Office beta. This enables them to add multiple NWP layers to create a bespoke composite chart such as their ‘overview’ chart (see below). Fixed charts don’t need hundreds and thousands of tiled images – you just download a single image – and that’s the advantage. The disadvantage of using fixed maps is that you only have a finite number of maps to select from and the area you might want to see spans two or more of the available maps. With an interactive map you can drag and pan the map with your mouse and zoom in or out with the mouse wheel to create a map for anywhere in the world. To me this is not such a big hindrance, I never stray too far away from the UK or Europe, and when I do there’s usually a map that covers the part of the world that I’m interested in.

Courtesy of wxcharts.com

The only feedback that I would like to give about their new beta, apart from saying that it’s about time, is that maybe they don’t need an interactive solution like this, we already have a solution from windy.com that does that brilliantly:

Courtesy of windy.com

Perhaps what the weather enthusiast is really looking for is not global coverage and a fancy map, but more detailed hourly NWP composite images for the UK like wxcharts.com already provide. What I was trying to say in my April fool article is that weather ‘enthusiasts’ out there not looking for another way of visualising NWP data on the web, what they want is for the Met Office to free up their Global NWP data so that we can see it and compare it with other model data on sites such as windy.com and wxcharts.com.

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