UKMO Atmospheric Deterministic and Probabilistic Forecasts

After writing my April fool article bemoaning the fact that the Met Office don’t make any of their model available for free, someone very kindly pointed me to this particular web page about how the Met Office manages and charges for dissemination of the output from the various NWP models that it runs on our behalf. I already knew about this Amazon web service and where you can download UKMO NWP data from, it was set up recently to replace the now defunct free DataPoint service the Met Office were forced to put into place when the Government at that time demanded that we free up their data – whatever happened to that movement?

Let’s take a look at what the Met Office are so kindly offering the citizens and taxpayers of the UK. Having not delved deeper into the repository it’s hard to say if they are providing six hourly models runs or just one a day, but I bet it’s just the 12 UTC run, because even just one run of the following models will be a serious amount of data.

The only prerequisite that you would need to access any of this free NWP data, besides excellent web skills, would be a five day course in how to use Restful APIs on Amazon Web Services.

The big downside is that nothing is really free from the Met Office, and everything comes at a price, be it daily climate data or hourly observational data and I should know, I’ve asked. So the catch with this seemingly free NWP data is that it’s already 24 hours old. Anyone who works with, or has worked with the weather knows that weather data has a very short shelf life:

  • Observation [SYNOP] – no more than an hour
  • Aerodrome forecast [TAF] – no more than three hours
  • Lightning report [SFERIC] – no more than 5 minutes these days not that
  • Satellite image – no more than an hour
  • NWP data – no more than six hours even less
  • Weather radar image – no more than 15 minutes

NWP data that is 24 hours old is well past its shelf life date. I don’t see it as an exciting opportunity to sample, experiment or evaluate what the Met Office have to offer. What I do see it as is a crafty way of showcasing a paid for service that you will have to buy into to access, and that’s why you will never see the UKMO Global model on the likes of windy.com or wxcharts.com. Instead of freeing up what after all is our data, they’ve effectively ring fenced it, and if they were interested in letting the people of the UK see just how well our model compares they would publish it, just like weather services in America, France, Germany and EU have already done. I don’t know for a fact, but I imagine that their Amazon Web Service initiative has not been overly successful, that’s because it’s difficult to compete with the free data that’s already out there, and the only losers in all this are the many weather enthusiasts and amateur meteorologists across the country who don’t get to see model data what they’ve paid for. I will admit that my April fool article yesterday was a little misleading, the Met Office do make NWP data available, it’s just out of date!

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