WOW – The UK Met Office’s ‘Weather Observations Website’

Overview

The UK Met Office is now welcoming the submission of good-quality weather data from private observers as part of the newly-launched (June 2011) Weather Observations Website (WOW) project.

Owners of new automatic weather stations often ask whether the UK Met Office is interested in receiving detailed weather records measured by their new stations. In the past, this was not possible – not for lack of interest by the UKMO, but more because the their data gathering was focused around a relatively small set of high-specification sites whose instrumentation and data formats were fully under the control of the UKMO. As a result, there was no mechanism in place for collecting data automatically from more disparate private sources. But times change, and it is now appreciated that the large amount of weather records being accumulated by private stations nowadays could provide a valuable supplement to data from the UKMO’s own sites. So the WOW project has been launched to make this wider data gathering possible and, presumably, also to engage more fully with the private observing community.

WOWheaderThe WOW project has its own set of web pages (see image right for banner link) on the UKMO’s website and this is the obvious place to look for detailed information. WOW is an ambitious project in the potential scale of its data-gathering and its need to be able to cope a wide range of different data sources. The project has only recently been launched and as of August 2011 it is still formally in beta, ie in a testing phase and not yet formally operational, although the system is certainly live and displaying data from many private sites. Inevitably, as yet, there are still some aspects requiring further development in terms of data presentation and explanation/documentation. But even in this initial launch phase,  the power and potential of WOW are clear to see.

What WOW offers

WOWmapWOW brings two types of benefit to its users:

First, it gives private AWS owners the opportunity to submit their own data to the UK’s national WOW archive to become part of the long-term record for the country. (See below for details of how to do this.)

Second, it allows visitors to the WOW website to view a fully-scalable Google map of the UK showing the latest weather data from each of the contributing sites. The picture to the right shows a reduced-size image of much of England, for instance, with individual sites colour-coded by latest-reported temperature.

You can drag the map around and use the map scaling control in typical Google map fashion or type your postcode or place name into the text box above the map to have WOW zoom straight in to your own locality.

By using the time-period slider at the bottom of the map, you can view country-wide or regional weather data at any time over the past 24 hours. And each of the individual reporting sites is clickable (watch for the mouse pointer to change shape), which will take you through to a more detailed picture of latest weather plus a 24-hour graphical weather record together with a direct link to the Met Office forecast for that locality. (NB Note that the Met Office typically uses GMT as its time reference, even in summer, so times may appear to be an hour slow even though the readings are up-to-date.)

As yet, the map can display only a limited range of weather parameters and there are still areas of the country where site coverage is sparse, but overall this map presentation has considerable promise for providing up-to-date and genuinely local weather information. Click on the map picture to the right to be taken to the live WOW website and try it for yourself!

Submitting your own data to WOW

WOW actually provides four different mechanisms to allow you to upload your own weather data to WOW, which are accessed via’s WOW’s Enter an Observation page. The mechanisms, data formats etc are described in more detail in the WOW Support pages.

Before being able to enter any data, a user must first have registered their observing site as a WOW site and have received a site ID number. There are menu options on the WOW web pages for requesting site registration.

Once you have a registered site then the four data submission mechanisms fall into three types:

  • The ‘Quick’ and ‘Detailed’ options are both interactive types, where you manually type your data into a WOW web page;
  • The ‘Automatic’ option is the one that will presumably interest most readers here because it is the mechanism that allows frequent, automated uploads from a PC connected to a weather station such as a Davis Vantage Vue or Vantage Pro 2 model and running suitable weather station software. To use this Automatic’ option, you must be able to upload data in a tightly-specified format and so you must be using a compatible software program that can package the data appropriately and upload using the required special protocol. At present, the following recent-version software choices exist (there will doubtless be other options introduced in due course):
    • Cumulus;
    • Weather Display;
    • An add-on program to the standard Weatherlink software (we have a suitable add-on under development currently);
  • The ‘File Upload’ option (also referred to in the WOW documentation as the ‘Bulk Import’ option) is a mechanism for uploading a whole block of data (eg a day’s or a month’s worth of data) in a single action. Note that this is a manual rather than an automated process, ie you initiate the file upload manually but all of the data gets imported into WOW in a single step. At present, there is only one choice as to the data format that can be used to perform a File Upload – files must be in the Davis Weatherlink archive file format (ie as a .wlk file). So, in practice, you must either be using the Davis Weatherlink software itself or an alternative weather station software package that can export its data in the Weatherlink format;