Foreign Forecast Models...

Hi Robert,

A good question and something that is dear to me heart. Over here in the UK there is a REAL issue with obtaining real time date – in fact it is near impossible!! For example the UK does not even have a Doppler radar network and to obtain rainfall radar I have to subscribe to a service that only provides radar that is delayed by 30 minutes – imagine that ! Surface Obs I get from METARS and from local reports from my 3000+ member website (no plug intended).
Sat images are a joke – often delayed by 6 hours !! so I plan to build my own Sat receiver.

I know I am going off topic here – but one of the joys of chasing in the US is the quality of data that is available – it is simply a joy to swamped by so much real time stuff.

Chasing in Europe is V. Hard – not least as the events are few and far between – but we adapt our style to suit and really go visual most of the time.

Do you know I would love to invite some of the peeps over here on StormTrack for a chase day in the UK – I would imagine that even the good and the great would struggle.

Overall it is not for the want of trying – but for the lack of real-time data.

I really do fear that it will take a T6+ tornado tracking across an urban area before real time date is made available – of course by then it will be too late. :(
The reason the data from Europe is so limited is because most of the national weather services have commercial divisions that charge for their products. So, they limit the amount of "free" data.

We may be headed that same direction in the United States. It is unfortunate so many do not see the threat.

With out getting political – here in the UK we pay for our own met office operation and running via our taxes – and then we ARE charged for retrieving any data on top!

For example, due to copyright we are not even allowed to post a forecast model FAX chart from the UKMO model as it is “crown copyrightâ€

Overall a VERY frustrating situation and I will let you in a secret here…..

I enquired about getting hold of NIMROD and GANDALF model data from the UKMO (this is basically a RUC MESO forecasting product for the UK and Europe) The cost was just unbelievable and even than the restrictions on where I could use this data was also unbelievable

Remember that here in the UK we fund the UKMO via our taxes

As I say I don’t want to get political – but you have it real good in the US

BTW – try to get hold off a radar plot from France in any detail – 6this is also imposable.

Yes, I know -- you pay taxes but cannot get the data because of the commercial arm of the British Met Office.

In the last two weeks, the NWS changed its policy to allow itself to compete with private sector meteorologists. The inevitable result, given enough time, will be a situation similar to Europe's.

The National Weather Service rules! American weather hobbyists are lucky that we have a weather agency that has a deeply-rooted philosophy of data-sharing. Nearly all of the foreign weather agencies are extremely stingy with their data. Heck, even India has a history of protecting their geostationary weather satellite data on grounds of national defense (guess they're worried about those 4-km wide Pakistani tanks).

The plethora of available data in the US is great; it's a good philosophy that isn't seen anywhere else and is obviously helpeful in various ways. Sharing of data is great but it would be nice if the NWS would concentrate on more reliable and more plentiful data at the source, rather than trying to compete in the end-delivery forecast business (which is costly) where they will never match the private sector and only make easier attacks from the likes of AccuWeather on free data and NWS forecasting itself. Pay for the data collection with taxes then for the forecasts themselves through the private sector because it's the only available option? That would be the reality here if some had their way. Budget for better data collection and forecaster equipment and training, as well as local public outreach (spotter networks/training, etc.), I say.

UK data and Boscastle disaster

Whenever I have visited the UK Met Office's homepage I have not been particularly impressed by the data available.

The North Cornwall flood disaster in August probably could have been anticipated 10's of minutes in advance by anyone familliar with the hydrology of their local catchment, had real time radar precip estimates been available (such as the 1 hour precip estimates on the NOAA website).

If I had been able to monitor the 3-4 hour deluge on the catchment that runs through Bostcastle in near real time, I would have expected the creek to go bonkers and would be ready to bail out and convince others to do the same.
"Mike, that really sucks. I hope they never take away the models and NEXRAD, I don't know what I would do!"

They never will, they have over and over stressed that they will not restrict data flow. I'm not sure what Mike read, but I think he's reading between the lines WAY WAY WAY too much.

Do I think the wording of their agreement could be better? Yes. Are there areas they provide forecasts that should be left to the private sector (NDFD)? Yes. Is there any intention behind NWS lines to pull data from the net? Absolutely not...

Your models & NEXRAD will be here forever.

- Rob
To adequately comment requires far more space than is appropriate for the Forum, but I will try to give some brief remarks.

First, I disagree that the National Weather Service readily shares its data. Go read "Isaac's Storm" to learn how the Weather Bureau of 100 years ago didn't like to share data. Some of that culture still exists. Moving forward to my lifetime, the private sector has had to pry geostationary satellite data, NEXRAD data (they originally did not plan an external data port), interstate dissemination of tornado warnings, etc., etc. out of the NWS. Most recently, WeatherData tried two years to get Level II WSR-88D data from the Weather Service. It finally took the personal intervention of Sen. Brownback to get this accomplished. Currently, NOAA has refused multiple requests since 1999 to make its hurricane wind analysis data available in real time.

None of this is opinion, I can document all of it. If you like the array of data available today, you can thank private sector meteorologists for getting the Weather Service to release it.

In 1991, the Weather Service issued a policy defining the roles of the private sector and National Weather Service. Among other things, the policy emphasized the role of the NWS in providing data, forecasts and warnings and the private sector in creating value-added products.
The NWS has repealed that successful policy. See: There is now no policy that focuses the NWS on data, warnings and public forecasts. As a result we are seeing activities like NDFD and wireless initiatives that duplicate services created by, and are designed to compete with, the private sector.

Finally, the top managment of NOAA is openly hostile to the private sector in meteorology. At a meeting in San Diego, Admiral Lautenbaucher, when asked about the private sector said, "I don't want to get my forecast from Enron. I believe weather forecasting should be done by the government." Enron, in context, was supposed to mean the commercial weather industry. Adm. Lautenbaucher has also said he wants to make NOAA a "household name."

So, if there is no policy that defines a role for the private sector and if people are supposed to get their forecasts from NOAA, why disseminate raw data, especially when their culture tends to work against dissemination?

Do I think data shrinkage will happen next month or next year? No. But, as I indicated earlier, these are disturbing signs.

Since there is no longer a boundary between the NWS and private sector, what is to stop them from offering custom services for businesses? Once that happens, we will be like Europe and raw data will be much more difficult or expensive to obtain because the Weather Service will be in direct competition and will want to protect its market position.

The "AccuWeather" position (it is really the position of the Commercial Weather Services Association) has been mischaracterized on a number of occasions and it is pertinent to these remarks. We believe 100% of NOAA's data should be released in real time for no cost or the cost of dissemination. NO ONE in the commercial weather industry is trying to cut off anyone's data.

Our concern is defining the proper role of NOAA and the NWS. To use an example: We aren't against disseminating the NDFD data -- we are against the NWS creating this product to begin with. A number of private sector companies already have these databases. The NDFD is not intended for the public at large, so we believe this falls outside the proper role of the Weather Service. That said, as long as the NWS produces this product, it should be disseminated.

Interesting discussion, like Stuart I often envy the level of both real time and model forecast that is available in the USA.

However at least in Australia our Bureau of Meteorology ( BOM ) has made more products available freely - it is only a token effort by US standards, but is still a far cry from the scary situation that existed just 7-8 years ago. At that stage our Bureau was hellbent on placing all but basic forecasts on paid subscription. Looking at the UK and New Zealand as role models.

The change in my mind I believe had no one factor, but several. Firstly there was wide scale opposition from conservative voting farmers, then came along two severe weather related events, the first when several sailers lost their lives in a yacht race, the second the Sydney hailstorm, which even by US standards was an extreme event. The BOM was harshly critised in both. Perhaps unfairly in the yacht race, but definate lacking with the hailstorm.

The situation for free products at present is still poor. We have basic radar coverage ( not doppler )

Some very basic sat pics

Another intresting development that has lead to some extra information is a private weather company. It's products are at

In the long summary however most Australian chasers do their homework with overseas based GFS models, or by paid extra products such as the Australian MESO LAPS model and the like.