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The Future of Free Weather Data on the Internet 312

An anonymous reader writes "The National Weather Service wants to update a 1991 policy that limits what data it can put on the Internet. The proposed new policy makes putting free data on the Internet official. The Private Weather Sector wants NWS to provide its new digital forecasts only in specialized data formats and would like NWS to shut down new XML data feeds. Barry Myers (MS Word doc), president of Accuweather wants you to have pay before using Kweather and other similar tools. Myers is asking friends to comment against the new NWS policy by June 30. Should we have to pay twice to get weather forecasts?"
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The Future of Free Weather Data on the Internet

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  • PC weather tools (Score:3, Informative)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:20AM (#9541451) Homepage
    Barry Myers (MS Word doc), president of Accuweather wants you to have pay before using Kweather and other similar tools.

    Are there any good non-adware PC weather tools? Being a true geek, I sometimes don't look out a window for days at a time. Besides the infamous Weatherbug [], what else is there?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:29AM (#9541471)
    Why use web based Weather feeds when you can pick the data off the satellite's directly???

    Connect a 137-138MHz FM communications receiver or scanner to your soundcard and get colour images directly from overhead weather satellites. You can either build your own like I did or just buy a receiver.

    For an explanation try: h_how. html

    and for a great tool:
  • The Austraian Bureau of Meteorology had this little dilemma with it's Weather RADAR [] product several years ago. They apparently had a very small number (as in less than 20) of customers who paid rather a lot of money for access to the service. Someone wised up and figured out that the cost of collecting the money from such a small customer base wasn't cost effective, so they opened the product to all and sundry.

    It's a really really useful tool. I use it at least a couple of times a week - basically anytime the weather seems a bit sus and I need to decide if to do a bolt from the office on my bike before a storm front hits, or to wait until it passes. The last four images thing lets you get a feel for which way the weather is blowing, etc, etc.

    On Tuesday nights, when the Sydney Knights [] do their Tuesday Night Ride (TNR), we're all hitting the site to see what the weather is looking like. If you ride a motorcycle and live in Sydney, Australia then you need to come on a TNR!.

    Now Australia didn't seem to have the problem with the commercial weather services wanting to continue to charge customers for something that they already paid the government for... that's a whole new ball game. Still, I'm all for the gummint opening up public access to weather data in any jurisdiction - it's a really really really good thing. Let the snake oil sellers find a new flavour of snake oil - I've heard that the penis enlargement pill market is a good one.

  • .doc as html (Score:5, Informative)

    by dncsky1530 ( 711564 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:43AM (#9541492) Homepage
    for those who dont feel like viewing the .doc file, heres the html version []
  • Re:PC weather tools (Score:3, Informative)

    by Yaa 101 ( 664725 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:53AM (#9541514) Journal
    Yes there is,

    The weather module of GKrellM.

    btw. could those stealing middlemen stop nagging that their stealing businessmodel stops working.
    If they had setup devices of their own and had financed all self instead of piggybacking on the Government weather services that are paid by us, not them.
  • by Minstrel Boy ( 787690 ) <> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:55AM (#9541519)
    Darned formatting.

    It's not a straw man argument. That was the greatest natural disaster (loss of life) in US history, and a significant contributing factor was that the fledgling US Weather Service didn't want to listen to the Cuban weather reports. Privatized weather companies may or may not be more willing to work and play together, but they certainly haven't shown the willingness to invest in the necessary infrastructure. Plus, in many countries private weather companies may *not* be able to cooperate, by government fiat.

    Less government is generally better, but national infrastructure like weather services are a notable exception.

  • Re:PC weather tools (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dacotah ( 710798 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:20AM (#9541559)
    I use Weather Watcher from Adware free and Spyware free, the total download is just 1.48Mb and is freeware. I liked it so much I gave him a donation. It is somewhat like Weatherbug without all the bloat and crap. KWeather for KDE would be similiar to Wx Watcher.
  • by aroobie ( 130077 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:26AM (#9541569) Homepage
    We pay for the IRS but can't do business with it on the Internet without paying a third party. This letter is simply wanting the same setup for weather companies that already exist for tax software companies. Just as a side note, I work with a good bit of weather software and I can assure you that the only data we get for free, from any source, are radar images that our doppler radar provides. Since all commercial users (I know of) already pay, this sounds like Accuweather wants individual user's cash. I have seen demos of all the major commercial weather software withiin the last 3 months (looking to upgrade our current software) including Accuweather and this may be a last ditch effort for Accuweather. Other weather software companies are showing advanced modeling, data presentation, and other features as the sellling point not what they can charge for the raw data. At least two other weather software companies did not even care where you got the raw data. I have seen one that actually used the xml data from NWS and used the no data charge as a selling point.

    I agree with others here, i.e. Personal use of NWS data have already been paid for and should not fall into the IRS/3rd party software business model.
  • by vk2tds ( 175334 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:31AM (#9541576)
    CWOP is the Citizen Weather Observation Programme, a part of NOAA. You can find the data on [] all about this data. The problem for the private weather industry is that all this data is freely available, and is not able to be restricted in availability thanks to the infrastructure...

    With CWOP, all the data is sent to [] where anyone can retrieve the data.

    Weather data is free this way, thanks to the support of Ham Radio operators internet infrastructure.

    Darryl Smith, VK2TDS
    Sydney. Australia
  • by whitis ( 310873 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:39AM (#9541591) Homepage

    An accuweather boycott has been created at Boycott City []. However, it may take 24 hours before the boycott is officially added to the list and you can join. If you want to join, send yourself a reminder message to visit the site tomorrow.

    This is my first experiment with such a system. The primary value of such an online boycott is that people can search to find out if people are boycotting a company - and why - before doing business with a company. As an added bonus, when you join a boycott it shows up on the main page thereby raising awareness.

    The boycott city system itself is pretty crude and doesn't yet have a large user base.

  • by barks ( 640793 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:44AM (#9541600) Homepage
    I remember scheming and dreaming a project once upon a time and trying to look for a database that contained various dates and the weather data conditions for that day.

    Found a free archive on Environment Canada [] that does just that for all of Canada.
  • by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:46AM (#9541606)
    Who knows maybe someone will develop a Weather@Home model which runs on the same principle as SETI@Home.

    You mean,like these guys?

    What is is the largest experiment to try and produce a forecast of the climate in the 21st century. To do this, we need people around the world to give us time on their computers - time when they have their computers switched on, but are not using them to their full capacity.

  • by jupiter909 ( 786596 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:49AM (#9541611)
    I would tend to agree with what you are saying. So perhaps they are shooting themselve in the foot with this preposal of theirs.

    'Open Source' weather collection would give a more accurate picture of statistics. If there are a few closed weather centers with high accuracy equipment to say a few hundred thousand people contributing to and open system. The system with more people even though running with 'poorer' equipment, would give a better overview, as the results of weather statistics is that of averages so the errors get smoothed out in the end.

    I know there was/is a simular type event happening for earth quake detection. A home system that many people plugged into and then each persons meter would report to some central station. So perhaps now is the time for weather to do the same.

  • by csteinle ( 68146 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:52AM (#9541619) Homepage
    There is no national or continental weather service in Europe;

    What's this [], then?
  • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:53AM (#9541621)
    There is no national or continental weather service in Europe

    This must definitely depend on which nation in Europe you talk about. In Denmark, DMI [] provides specialized weather reports and forecasts for aviation, shipping, and farming. DMI is a national institution and many of its services are free.

  • is a link to the Word Document [] being used by the Private Weather Sector to give details about where/how to lobby to NOAA.

    Instead of bemoaning the state of the public sector how about actually doing something about it and actively lobby the people in power to keep this free?
  • by PeeAitchPee ( 712652 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:14AM (#9541657)
    Check out HAMWeather [] if you haven't already. It's been around for years and it's essentially a set of scripts which allow you to set up your own AccuWeather or -type site. It's also got a lot of other additional features like mapping and "weather sticker" creation (dynamically creating a small image with a location's name, current conditions and a little icon representing the current conditions). I've been using it for about two years and while it's not rocket science, I've found it to be a very useful, time-saving tool. The scripts are available in Perl, ASP, and PHP.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @08:34AM (#9541699)
    Thanks for the pointer. Here's mine:
    Inasmuch as NOAA is a tax-funded government agency, the idea that private industry would have any kind of means of interefering with its data being provided to the public without charge is simply outrageous. The vital services provided by NOAA need to be freely available in the public domain, notwithstanding the ambition of certain elements of private industry to lock up these products and repackaging them for their own profit. In summary, the taxpayer should not be put in a position of having to pay more than once for the products of NOAA. Thank you.
  • In Norway we have our corresponding DNMI [], and I have a friend who used to work for the "Market Division" there. I think the status of the two institutions are much the same.

    I got some inside looks at the battle inside this "Market Division". Generally, scientists think that weather information is a vital resource that should be kept free, and they are fighting for that end inside the institute. But the market realities are that it might not be for very much longer, since the government is cutting back funding every now and then, giving vitally important resources to the people is going to bancrupt them any day now.

    Like happened to the Norwegian mapping authority. It was founded in the beginning of 18-hundred something, and by 1890, the whole country was mapped. Funnily, it is now impossible to get a decent map of the country that is not under some kind of copyright, after the mapping authority folded under market pressures. Fortunately, we get our free data from US sources. Thanks a lot, US taxpayers! You pay a lot less taxes than we do, yet manage to get useful common data.

    Another example of IPR gone wrong: Anybody care to tell me why a work completely done by 1890 mostly be people who thought that mapping the country was important to break free from the superpowers of the day needs copyright in 2004...?

  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @09:37AM (#9541934)
    the general public doesn't sit on a metric assload of various measurment instruments.

    Not that it is in any way a replacement for a government service, but The Weather Undergound [] of Hong Kong, and presumably affiliated groups [], do have their own weather stations, though most of their data is from government observatories. But I think witout weather satellite photos, no one can conme anywhere near current state-of-the-art.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @10:58AM (#9542662)
    DON'T FORGET to send comments to ALL the addresses so kindly provided in the letter from Accuweather. That includes back splashing it to the author of the Accuweather letter!

    Here are the addresses for the lazy folks:,,DL.J oh,,devan
  • by AIXadmin ( 10544 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @05:49PM (#9545910) Homepage
    Be sure to send your comments too:
    Official comment address:


    General D.L. Johnson
    Director of the National Weather Service

    Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr.
    Under Secretary of Commerce and NOAA
    Conrad.C.Lautenbacher@noaa.go v

    Secretary Donald L. Evans
    Office of the Secretary, Department of Commerce

    Also find out who your congressman is at:

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly