Are MeteoGroup using ECMWF model at the BBC?

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

I’ve been wondering for a while exactly which particular NWP model MeteoGroup have been using in their WeatherSuite graphics on the BBC. From what I can see it’s neither NWP data from the Met Office or the American GFS model, but rather surprisingly from the European ECMWF model. Have a look at three points of commonality between the forecast chart for Sunday from today’s lunchtime forecast on the BBC (fig 1) and the forecast chart for 00 UTC on Sunday (T+72) from the ECMWF (fig 2). It’s the best fit that I can find from looking at each of the three models, and to me looks like the one they used today. Who knows tomorrow it maybe the GFS or maybe a blend of the two!

Figure 2 – Courtesy of www.wxcharts.eu

As far as I can see the ECMWF model can be used by any of the member states, although MeteoGroup, which is originally a Dutch company with headquarters now in London, will probably use a commercial license that may cost them no more than €14,000 a year (fig 3). That wouldn’t buy you very much climate data from the Met Office I can tell you!

Figure 3 – Courtesy of the ECMWF

Although the resolution of the ECMWF model is 0.1° x 0.1°, the rendering of the isobars does look a bit ‘steppy’ to me in the WeatherSuite graphics, and certainly not as smooth as in the static image from www.wxcharts.eu.

Problems ahead?

The question is what happens when the UKMO and the ECMWF models part company as they sometime do? That could be a real problem. What if the Met Office issue a severe weather warning a number of days in advance as they sometimes do and the two models aren’t in synch and have differing solutions? I suppose the answer is for the weather presenter either to not mention anything about the warning at all, or vaguely mention the threat and hope nobody notices that although an intense depression is forecast to track into France in the graphics, south cones have been hoisted by the Met Office all along the channel coast!

Author: xmetman

An ex-metman passionate about all things to do with weather, climate and clouds

8 thoughts on “Are MeteoGroup using ECMWF model at the BBC?”

  1. One thing I have noticed is that the BBC forecast now seems to estimate wind speeds about 8-10 mph lower than the MO forecast.
    I suspect the BBC one is more accurate, since I have noticed that the MO forecasted wind speeds too high.
    One problem with the BBC forecast is that over a certain speed they switch to the gust speed, so it isn’t possible to compare the wind speeds, (or the gust speed when it is not displayed. The MO forecast displays both wind and gust speed for all times.

  2. Yes much of the Met Office’s data is for sale, and it does a fair bit. The UKV to MeteoGroup for example. It used to be called ‘Wholesale data’ but it might go under a different name now: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/legal/foi/publication/pricing-schedule

    Good model agreement at T+120 is the norm rather than the exception these days, and it’s quite common to see general situation agreement at T+144 and +168! That’s a big difference to ten years ago, mainly as a result of the new microwave sounders and infrared imagers on the low-earth satellites and work to use that data in the models.

  3. One problem with the BBC Meteogroup, and presumably a different model, is that their forecasts seem to differ slightly from the MO ones, which may not make much difference on a large scale, but seems to at a local level.
    Consequently, I now have to either watch both forecasts, or ignore one of them, and I have no idea which is the most accurate.
    Probably the BBC will be more accurate one day, and the MO the next.
    At least before, you could rely on the BBC reflecting the MO forecast.
    Of course that also means ignoring all of the other forecasts out there, which I effectively do.

  4. You raise a good point about whether the Met Office sell data to commercial companies. If it does I hope the charges are high enough to go towards the cost of maintaining their super-computer and all the back up and development involved!
    I believe MeteoGroup have a very interesting history regarding data available to them when the company was is it’s infancy in Holland in the mid -1980’s. One of their founders, Harry Otten, had been a Dutch ‘MP’ and may have used his position to ‘persuade’ the then Dutch government to provide data that hithertoo had been ‘unavailable’. I wonder if a similar situation has occurred in the run up to MeteoGroup being ‘awarded’ the BBC Contract?

  5. I think it’s a ludicrous situation that we’ve ended up with.

    We have a state run weather service, running one of the worlds fastest and most expensive supercomputers in it’s own purpose built building, running an NWP model that’s the envy of the world, and which is fine tuned to the weather of the UK, a country which see’s some of the most varied and severe weather because of it’s proximity to the North Atlantic – and the Government see’s fit to break that 70 year old long relationship between the Met Office and the BBC, hand it over to a commercial concern whose only responsibility is seems is to select some NWP model data which they think looks reasonable – and all ostensibly for the sake of saving a few lousy bob!

  6. I take your point about the models being closely aligned, but out as far as T+120 might be stretching it a bit.

    Even if the ECMWF data did cost as much €140,000 per annum, MeteoGroup would still be able to make good use of that data it in all the many other services that they provide across Europe and the world, which the BBC contract is just one part of.

    I suppose the question is, and one that I’ve never thought of asking is, do (or would) the Met Office sell on their NWP data to a commercial concern like MeteoGroup?

  7. Yes it’s ECWMF data, following UKV data for ‘today and tomorrow’.

    ‘Charts’ access is just for the ECMWF website showing… charts. Binary data access costs 10x.

    ECMF hi-res and MetO Global are rarely different at day 5 these days; they’re too good. If they were different, the MetO wouldn’t have the confidence to put warnings out. The ‘but the warnings won’t match!’ worry isn’t really justified.

  8. You raise some very interesting points here! Firstly it might also explain the often poor mismatch between isobars, fronts and bands of precipitation, especially if the BBC Forecasters are using forecast frontal positions from the Met Office.
    While statistics show the ECMWF model output to be arguably the worlds ‘best’, it is only run twice a day and output from the deterministic model not available until around T+7-8 from observation time. This means that if MeteoGroup are using ECMWF data, BBC weather forecasts shown on say the early evening news, could be based on an old 00Z run. It’s worth checking the later evening news to see if any significant changes in model output can be detected! I suppose on most occasions this might be transparent to the viewer but not in situations as you have described e.g in finely balanced situations where weather warnings are involved.

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