The Times has today run a feature – ‘Experts make way for an outbreak of enthusiasm from citizen forecasters’ – about a new project by the Met Office to set up a social network for weather observations.
The weather is a subject that most of us talk about at some point during the day. In fact, many members of the public have an active interest in the weather and enjoy taking their own weather observations.
From spring 2011, the Met Office in partnership with the Royal Meteorological Society and supported by the Department of Education will launch a new web site for weather observers across the UK.
The ‘Weather Observations Website’ – WOW reflects recent advances in technology and how weather observations can be made. At the same time, the growing world of social networking online makes it relatively easy for anyone to get involved and share their weather observations.
By hosting the new website, the Met Office is helping to co-ordinate the growth of the weather observing community in the UK, by asking anyone to submit the observations they are taking. This can be done through using all levels of equipment, so there are no cost restrictions.
On behalf of the UK the Met Office operates a network of over 200 weather observing stations, however by there very nature they can not cover every single corner of the UK. This project will enable the public to fill in some of those corners, providing valuable information that can be shared with other enthusiasts through the website.
Although the observations submitted to WOW will not be used for input into Met Office weather forecast models, the purpose of the website is to provide a platform for the sharing of current weather observations. This will be regardless of where they come from, what detail of information or the frequency of reports.
It is hoped that users will then use the data to explore the British weather, looking at how weather varies from place to place, moves across the country and how height or your location can make a difference to the weather you see. Over time WOW will build up an historical record of weather observations for sites across the UK.
Involvement can include submitting ad-hoc information such as ‘it is snowing here’, or uploading a photograph of the weather you have observed. It also means you can submit routinely taken data from manned or automatic weather stations of high standards.
It is hoped that the website will encourage further growth in the UK’s amateur weather observing community, and help educate children about the weather. It is hoped that this will become the UK’s largest source of weather observations.
Observations sent to WOW will be monitored in two ways. Firstly, a series of ‘quality flag’ thresholds will be established across the UK to prevent obvious extremes from being entered. For example, this means that a maximum temperature of 25 Celsius cannot be entered during the winter months. In fact, quality data will be used to monitor very localised weather variations as and when they happen. Secondly, the web site will be self-regulatory with other users being encouraged to query and ultimately remove false information.
WOW is an exciting initiative from the Met Office and the Royal Meteorological Society, joining up the thousands of observations that are being taken across the UK, enabling them to be shared in real time and joined with the UK’s national observing network.
You can find out more information and register your interest at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/science/creating/first_steps/weather_stations.html