The new £20 million building to house the new supercomputer in Exeter
There’s a link on the Met Office site that gives you a menu of available NWP [numerical weather prediction] models that they produce and that you can buy, but try as I might I couldn’t find any indication of what that NWP data might cost you.
Courtesy of the Met Office
My simple question is: why isn’t Met Office NWP data free?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that all model data should be made freely available, but certainly a subset of it should be, much like the Americans do with their Global Forecast System [GFS] model. At the same time they may like to produce a simple desktop and mobile application for the people of this fair land to view that forecast data with, because there are growing band of ‘expert users’ across the country that feel disenfranchised by the way that they are barred from being able to view what is essentially our forecast data.
Yes, I know the Met Office is a Trading Fund and part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [BEIS] and expected to turn in some kind of profit each year, but with the help of a simple application they could use this free subset of NWP data to showcase what they can provide and actually generate interest and increase sales of more specific detailed forecast data from the other models that they run.
You could argue that we do see the Met Office data across all the time on our TV weather forecasts, and that’s undeniably true, but how do we know it’s the best forecast data that is being used? With that thought in mind, please take a look at the T+120 forecast for midnight (22 November 2016) from each of the three major NWP models in the world, and see how each of them have done with a forecast made 5 days ago on the 17th.
The boys from Exeter didn’t do too well did they? And they were also not too great at nailing storm Angus at T+120 either. I didn’t cherry pick this particular example, because until an hour ago I didn’t even know I was going to write this article. Why do I use Wetterzentrale to compare NWP forecast charts? Well, they have for many years provided a website where you can examine and compare up to as many as nine different NWP models from around the world, using the same standard map projection for each. The Met Office do publish forecast fax charts out to T+120 which may be subtly different from the raw model output, but I prefer this way of doing it, after all I am comparing model data.
I want our NWP data to be made more freely available for the sake of transparency, because I would like to know just how well our model compares with the American, French, German and European models, but as you can see that’s far from easy to do. Please don’t email with sites that do this with some fancy statistical RMS verification score because I have seen and they don’t help. My kind of verification is of the mark one eyeball – give me an analysis and any number of forecast charts and I’ll pick out the best one. I know all models perform better the higher in the atmosphere that you go, but for me it’s level zero that’s the most important one.
This article started out as another one of my Don Quixote type crusades to right what I see is a wrong – free NWP data for all. But as I wrote it, it developed more into a questioning of why are the Met Office so reluctant to free their model data, and the year on year spiralling cost of the whole thing. But that’s what blogs and blogging is all about I suppose.
If our NWP model consistently outperforms the rest, then I can see how the £97 million cost of the latest Cray XC40 supercomputer, the £20 million for the building that it sits in, and the time and effort put into its development have been fully justified, but at the moment I have my doubts that it does.