Source : The Parliament Mag by Umberto Modigliani, deputy director of forecasts of ECMWF, responsible, with the department director, continuous production of forecasts and user relations.
Beginning of October, the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (CEPMMT) will take a big step forward by making hundreds of its forecast maps freely available to all.
These changes are part of a large European initiative to make public sector data free and open, to encourage innovation and support a thriving data-driven digital economy.
Until now, full access to these forecast charts was restricted to national meteorological and hydrological services of ECMWF Member States and Cooperating States, to members of the World Meteorological Organization and to business customers. Access was subject to a series of custom licenses and high fees.
The cards will cover the whole world, all types of weather situations, including extreme events, and, which is very important, will also include probability-based information, providing guidance on confidence in forecasts.
Forecast maps will be free and open, so that users can share, redistribute and adapt information according to their needs, even for commercial applications, provided the ECMWF is cited as the source. These changes also mean a shift to an open data policy for historical information in the ECMWF's huge stockpile., which contains billions of weather fields, including recent and past forecasts. It represents the largest archive of this type of data in the world..
Rolf Brennerfelt, President of the ECMWF Policy Advisory Committee explains :
"The societal benefits associated with free and open data are significant. We understand that with change comes financial challenges, but the benefits outweigh these challenges. We are in a period of transition, and this first batch of data made freely accessible is a very good start and illustrates our commitment to this principle ”
Under the European Open Data Directive, EU member states will be required to make as much information available as possible for reuse. Weather forecasts are considered "high value" data, whose reuse is associated with particularly important benefits for society and the economy.
The EU's Copernicus Earth Observation Program (¹), several elements of which are implemented by ECMWF, already apply, and this since its creation, a policy of free and open data. With several thousand users, the program offers a multitude of examples of the benefits that open data can bring.
This gradual shift towards free and open data aims to support creativity and innovation in scientific research as well as meteorological applications, and should allow scientific advances, more necessary and more critical social and economic.
And then ?
At time, Umberto Modigliani only talks about forecast maps, but Rolf Brennerfelt talks about a period of transition, of a first batch of data being a good start. We can reasonably hope that, following the initiative of Météo-France, data in GRIB format will be freely accessible. We will finally be able to benefit from IFS models free of charge (²), Hirlam, and others who are known to be some of the best in the world.
(¹) After having successfully coordinated the European MyOcean projects since 2009, Mercator Ocean has been formally appointed by the European Commission the 11 November 2014 to implement and operate the "Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service" as part of the European Earth Observation Program Copernicus.
(²) See Forecast Models in Glossary