Will the BBC graphics look like this?

One of my readers after reading my article about NWP Web viewers has kindly pointed me to one that the MeteoGroup are trialling at the moment. It’s called MeteoEarth and it’s very ‘Google Earth’ like with a spinning globe, although you can display ‘flat’ maps. There are a number of basic overlays available, but they are just that quite basic, and the contoured pressure overlay does need further work to look right. It might be early days for their web application, because that’s what it really is, perhaps this is some kind of test bed. They seem to be encouraging people to embed MeteoEarth into their own websites, and you can also hook up to social media through various buttons. It makes me wonder if it resembles in any way the graphics engine that they are planning to use when they take over the BBC contract very shortly.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of MeteoGroup

The info box makes interesting reading as well…

Figure 2 – Courtesy of MeteoGroup

They are making use of global ECMWF data in the MeteoEarth, wouldn’t that be a turn up if they did the same thing at the BBC! I can’t see this happening somehow, especially the political ramifications of using European NWP data in preference to Met Office NWP data when, we are just about to begin the Brexit negotiations.

BBC weather takeover imminent

The takeover of the BBC weather contract by MeteoGroup must be imminent if it’s to happen this spring as promised. I’ve read recently that Meteogroup are going to provide the graphics for the new service, and I wonder if they are of the same standard that they push out on their Twitter account. It seems that the Met Office are using all forms of social media including Twitter to show of their new graphics engine – Visual Cortex. If these couple of examples I have included from their respective Twitter accounts are anything to go by (figs 1 & 2), I think I much prefer the graphics and animations from the Met Office than those of MeteoGroup, which do look a little dated. Corporately, I think that the Met Office are still smarting after being dropped by the BBC, it’s quite obvious from how they’ve upped their game in the last couple of years on social media.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of MeteoGroup

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Of course MeteoGroup could surprise us, and have their own new bespoke graphics engine ready to go from the start, or maybe getting that in place and tweaked has delayed the takeover. It seems that all the various staffing changes concerning the presenters in London have now taken place, and all we are waiting for now is the big switchover.

Eleven of the best NWP viewers on the Internet

If you, like me, are fascinated by what the weather is going to do in a bit finer detail than you’ll ever get from watching the weather on the BBC, then you might be interested in some of the eleven websites that I’ve listed below. They all provide a quick and easy way of looking at NWP forecast data from various models, usually the American GFS, but not always. There have recently been a rash of new websites providing these kind of viewers, and they are increasingly becoming more sophisticated and professional. I’ve tried to put them into some kind of ranking, let me know if you agree, or maybe you know of a website that I’ve missed out completely.

#11 – metvuw.com

A basic GFS viewer from James McGregor in New Zealand, the graphics and maps used are simple and clear once you find them, as are the controls and available map regions, all set in a web page that offers visualisation such as satellite, weather radar and observational data.

Figure 1

#10 – yr.no

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Organisation have put this NWP viewer together between them. It’s rather Norwegian centric, rather like the Met Office website is with the UK, and as far as I know it’s their own NWP model that they use. Personally I just like the Meteograms, which in my opinion would be even better if they ran out to T+120 or longer.

Figure 2 – Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2013 – 2017

Figure 3 – Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2013 – 2017

#9 – wetterzentrale.de

The Wetterzentrale site has been around for years and was recently was re-sited and the NWP viewer spruced up. I like the basic idea of the graphics that they produce, and the overlay of an MSLP field on top on a colour filled contoured chart of geopotential height seems to be a defacto standard. I also like the ability to access other models from around the world, especially the 20th century reanalysis data that the site provides as well. I think the controls are still a little bit basic and could do with a bit of a makeover.

Figure 4

#8 – ogimet.com

The OGIMET site is an old favourite of mine, and is were I go to download SYNOP data, and even though the guy that runs it has never replied to a single one of my emails over the years, it still displays a comprehensive array of GFS model data for various regions. I like the multi-layered graphics which are clean and simple, the functionality and controls are rather basic though.

Figure 5

#7 – theweatheroutlook.com

The weather outlook viewer controls are just a little bit more sophisticated than those on the wetterzentrale site, but the graphics are very similar. The controls make selection a little quicker, with flyover selection of model time steps by means of the mouse, with a good range of NWP data fields to access and display.

Figure 6

#6 – netweather.tv

The netweather site have a similar approach to that of weather outlook, but if anything the user interface is clearer and more organised. Again the NWP graphics are not that dissimilar to those produced by wetterzentrale and superbly clear.

Figure 7

#5 – tropicaltidbits.com

This site keeps a special eye on tropical cyclones, but that doesn’t stop them enabling their NWP viewer to be pointed at other regions from a variety of NWP models. The graphics offer multiple layers of NWP types which are sharp and clear, and you can view some quite sophisticated overlays on detailed outline maps.

Figure 8

#4 – earth.nullschool.net

The earth viewer from Cameron Beccario has been around for a long while now, but has exquisite animated graphics. The controls are hidden away so as to get the full effect of the viewer when running in full screen mode. What else can you say other than it’s just beautiful.

Figure 9 – © 2017 Cameron Beccario

#3 – windytv.com

The windytv viewer goes a little bit further than the earth viewer, and gives you an always visible interface, that’s not obtrusive and very tastefully designed, I bet behind the facade it probably uses the same vector graphics and mapping though. A really swish NWP viewer which I don’t use often enough.

Figure 10

#2 – ventusky.com

The ventusky viewer is from the same stable as the earth and windytv viewers by the looks of it. I quite like it, even with the slightly gaudy colours that they’ve chosen to use on their wind fields.

Figure 11

#1 – wxcharts.eu

The wxcharts viewer does just about everything that you could want of a NWP viewer in a web browser, and it must be the equal of many desktop weather visualization systems. It’s hard to believe that the developers have packed so much into the display, in which they’ve also managed to include meteograms as well as maps. You can tell that the team that’s put this together are real enthusiasts. The NWP graphics might be static, and not just quite as impressive as the animated maps from ventusky or windytv viewer, but I still think wxcharts as the edge on them in my opinion.

Figure 12



National Met service offerings in comparison

The DWD in Germany just like to keep it simple, why complicated things with those funny isolines and colour filled contours.

Figure 14 – Meteo France

Sophisticated stuff from the French, in this screenshot from the Meteo France website. I suppose for the general public this viewer is telling them all that they need to know – generally sunny.

Figure 15 – The UK Met Office

The Met Office are still using the same FAX charts that they’ve been using for the last 50 years or more, they analysis chart still has the same PPVA89 file designator that it’s always had, but at least nowadays it’s in colour. The Met Office have collaborated to produce the Visual Cortex graphics engine which they use on ITV and internally these days. They seem to have placed most of their effort into producing weather forecast videos which they use on their website and social media. It’s a shame that Visual Cortex can’t be used to provide NWP graphical output to a web viewer in a similar way to what ventusky have done, how hard can it be.

At least the Americans are now trying to update their viewers, and have recently started to use GIS web services offered by ESRI I notice.

It’s all very sad when you compare the quality and sophistication in the first eleven NWP viewers with those on offer from some of the worlds National Met Services. The difference is quite stark in most cases, it’s as if these organisations don’t even want to compete, after spending countless millions on the fastest supercomputers, and building the most sophisticated ensemble and deterministic NWP models, they just tire at the last hurdle and leave it to others to provide a web interface for the citizens of their respective countries to use, the question that springs to my mind is, why not?

Look back at Sunday’s maximum temperatures

I thought that I would look back at yesterday’s (9th April 2017) maximum temperatures forecast by the BBC. This is not a moan about the temperature contrast across the south of the country, their most certainly was a good contrast, it’s more to do with the sites that the BBC choose as representative of their region and label in their graphics. The one that infuriates me the most is Plymouth in the southwest. There is a method in their madness though, because the Met Office bonus is dependent on how these extreme temperatures are scored in verification, choosing a coastal site (which is difficult not to do on an Island) can pay dividends, because the extremes, and therefore any potential misses are not as large. I believe that yesterday’s maximum temperature of 20.0°C at Exeter was more representative for the whole of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, than a forecast maximum of 14°C was for Plymouth, and even here the temperature reached 16.8°C. Rather oddly many of the temperatures on the chart don’t reflect the colour filled temperature contours that they are overlaid on, for example, a forecast maximum of just 16°C at Birmingham was always going to be wrong but the background colour is a mid-orange colour.

I think that I would have the full support of the South West Tourist board if the BBC put a little more thought into how they forecast regional temperatures.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

I couldn’t help myself and resist scoring the maximum temperatures on the chart, if anything it underlines the fact that the Met Office model seems to have as many problems underestimating maximum temperatures as it does overestimating low cloud at the moment.

Figure 2

Where would you go to catch the sun?

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

Where would you go for a day out and catch the sun? It’s a simple enough question, but I bet the majority of the people who saw this chart wouldn’t say the southwest of England.

I don’t know why this surprises me because I moan about it every time spring and summer come around. The BBC presenters in past years have done irreparable damage to the tourist industry of the southwest with misleading charts like this. It doesn’t matter how many times that you complain that a maximum temperature for Plymouth Hoe is just not representative for the whole of the southwest peninsula (especially in a SE’ly) it has absolutely no effect in the slightest.

To be fair weather presenters must feel a little left out and neglected once the named storm season and all that gesticulating and arm waving that goes with it have finished, so they return to their first love, extreme temperatures, and if they are occurring in the southeast of England so much the better!

Why is forecasting low cloud so difficult?

I had ago at David Braine this week for his cloudier day forecast for Thursday. It wasn’t anything personal, I think he’s a pretty good forecaster turned weather presenter, he like a lot of other presenters was only towing the party and following the model, it was all to do with the output from the Met Office mesoscale NWP model. It seems to have a problem with forecasting low cloud amounts, especially in anticyclonic situations when it seems to overestimate the amount. They know about the problem, and according to their new blog Why is forecasting low cloud so difficult? it has to do with thin SC layers being missed by the coarseness in the vertical resolution of their model (100 M), combined with the difficulty in assessing SC amounts over the sea, especially when it’s masked by higher cirrus layers in satellite imagery.

I think there’s also another problem that they are missing, and that it’s either not possible, or difficult to tweak the graphics engine used to produce the graphics on TV. So the forecaster may know full well that the model is wrong or misleading from the evidence of the latest observations and satellite imagery, but they can’t quickly adjust the graphics à la Photoshop. I use Krita which is a free drawing package, and it comes with dozens of different pens and tools to draw and edit with, it surely wouldn’t be difficult to configure a pen that dissolves cloud layers?

This problem won’t necessarily go away when MeteoGroup take over at the BBC, but that’s of course dependent on whether the BBC stipulate that they use Met Office model data. Perhaps the new weather graphics engine that the Met Office now use internally and at the ITV, Visual Cortex , does make it possible to edit NWP forecast frames, if it doesn’t it should.

Another beautiful spring day across the south

Figure 1 – courtesy of the Met Office

Another lovely sunny morning down here in Devon again this morning – the third in a row (fig 1). Not wishing to rub it in at all after David Braine’s warnings of a cloudier Thursday down here for yesterday, I noticed that Exeter airport was the sunniest spot in the whole country with 12.6 hours of sunshine, ~94.6% of the maximum (fig 2). We must be in top gear making up for the dull March we had.

Figure 2

Last night was clear and starry, and led to a very cold night with a minimum of 0.0°C at the airport (fig 3), I wonder if he forecast that?

Figure 3

I suppose this is not at all surprising when you’re sat under a large anticyclone like we are at present, and as it pulls away later today we will find warmer air pushing up from France for the weekend. So we could end up with a run of five sunny days before it’s all swept away early next week.

6 April 2017 – Low cloud and the BBC forecast

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC

It was plausible that the SC that was sat over the Irish Sea late yesterday would migrate SE overnight in the Northwesterly flow to cover most of the southwest of England but not to the extent shown on the 09 BST forecast frame (fig 1), compare it with reality in the shape of the 1015 BST visible satellite image (fig 2), and you can see just how the Met Office model has overdone the amount of low cloud this morning. The Met Office NWP model does very well with fast-moving storms such as Doris, but it seems to have big problems in forecasting amounts of low cloud in anticyclonic situations such as this.

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the Met Office

One other criticism that I have of the weather forecast on Spotlight Southwest and that’s the humidity displayed in a caption at the top of the forecast graphics (see fig 1). It’s ridiculous that any single value can have any significance for anywhere in the region, and gives the wrong impression about humidity, relative humidity varies immensely. Why not just replace the humidity caption by occasionally displaying a colour contoured relative humidity chart? This would at least show the viewer how much humidity varies across the region (fig 3) and be a lot more educational and scientific in the process. In passing, the 64% forecast for 09 BST might have been just a little over optimistic!

Figure 3

14 March 2017 – gales in Northern Isles gusts to 67 knots that’s 77 mph

The severe west southwesterly gales have continued all day across the Northern Isles, with gusts to 67 knots that’s 77 mph on Fair Isle and Lerwick on Shetland (fig 3), BBC weather presenters please take note, because you seem to have the conversion as 74 mph which is wrong. Last year this low – Bernd – would have merited being a named storm, but not let’s get into that.

Figure 1

That makes it around 11 day with gales there since Christmas on Shetland (fig 2).

Figure 2

Figure 3

Lovely day – shame about tomorrow

Figure 1

Exeter airport is top of the shop in the 14 UTC SYNOP reports with 12.2°C – and not “somewhere in the southeast” thank you very much Darren Bett (fig 1). My Vantage pro recorded a max of 13.2°C in a sunny spell around lunchtime here in mid-Devon, in what has been a lovely spring like day. It’s a shame it won’t last though, as I notice pressure has already start to fall ahead of another low that’s forecast to swing into the southwest of the country tomorrow (fig 2).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of OGIMET