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Weather Data Available in XML 198

Posted by michael
from the stormy-weather dept.
wombatmobile writes "Wired reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week began providing weather data in an open access XML format. Previously, the data was technically available to the public, but in a format that's not easily deciphered. How will the free and easy availability of valuable data like this in XML affect the development of the web? One example is Tom Groves SVG weather. This type of visualization of XML data is about to fall within easy reach with nothing more than a text editor required as an authoring tool. From March 2005 SVG becomes part of the standard Mozilla/FireFox build. As an example of how web standards are supposed to work, what more could you hope to find?" We mentioned the policy change a few days ago.
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Weather Data Available in XML

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  • The XML requires latitude and altitude...

    Does anybody know a way to translate that for common locations?

  • by stfvon007 (632997) <enigmar007NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:23PM (#11003835) Journal
    Do we get the blue sky of death?
  • Why SOAP (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:25PM (#11003841)
    Can't the XML files just be fetched by HTTP ? Why introduce that SOAP layer? I mean, can't I just wget .../BOS.xml or something?
    • Re:Why SOAP (Score:4, Informative)

      by aluminum boy (589676) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:34PM (#11003905)
      SOAP, being XML, is available via http. Anything available in SOAP can be opened / viewed as XML in most browsers.
      • I think what is being asked here is why add another layer? XML can be directly via HTTP so why serve it via SOAP which is in turn being served by HTTP?
      • Re:Why SOAP (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jdludlow (316515) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @08:13PM (#11004091)

        SOAP uses HTTP as a transport layer option (usually). The reason why the added complexity is worth it is because it allows client applications to do things like "float temp = weatherSerivce.getTemp(cityID);" much more easily. (Note: I completely made up that example, but it's similar to what would actually be used.) The point is that the client doesn't really have to know and/or care that "weatherService" isn't a local call. The client also doesn't need to care that it's running Java locally and the server is running .NET (or whatever else it might be using).

        SOAP is just a piece of the larger and much more complicated Web Services unbrella. Understanding all of the specs involved is a huge task, but you can do some client-side tutorials that will explain quite a bit of the basics anyway. Most of the real work is done on the server, so if you ignore that bit of it to start with, the learning curve isn't anywhere near as steep. The Apache Axis [apache.org] project is a decent starting point, if you just want to play around with the technology. Installing Axis into Tomcat is about a minutes worth of effort, then you can spend hours exploring the various documents, examples, and tutorials.

    • Re:Why SOAP (Score:3, Informative)

      by yelvington (8169)
      The referenced URL provides access to quite a bit of detailed forecast information. If all you want is current weather observations, you can get that in RSS or the Weather Service's own XML format without the bothersome overhead of SOAP or WSDL. See this page:

      http://www.nws.noaa.gov/data/current_obs/seek.ph p? state=&Find=Find

    • Re:Why SOAP (Score:4, Informative)

      by batkiwi (137781) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @09:00PM (#11004356)
      Because it's meant to be used by programs that do processing on the data, not simply aggregators.

      By using SOAP, I can use php/java/c++ and simply bind to their services isntead of having to roll my own weather-xml->object (or hashtable, or whatever) converter.

      This is not for you to just hit with your browser/wget/whatever to stick weather on your webpage (although you can do that, it's easy if you post the right data), it's to allow you to write your own application that does whatever it wants with the data in an easy manner.

      It's not flat xml files based on city as per your example because that wouldn't make any sense. If you read through their api's there's a lot of data you can get based on long/lat or weather station id or........
    • Re:Why SOAP (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mkgray (4935)
      As others have pointed out, they do have RSS feeds, but that's not quite the same as a straight HTTP interface to the same queries they expose via SOAP.

      I wrote a gateway. I wrote a simple description of the HTTP interface gateway to the NOAA SOAP interface [mkgray.com] on my site.
  • by BorisSkratchunkov (642046) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:26PM (#11003856) Journal
    weather or not I'll use it.....

    I'm sorry, I'm sorry....it's another bad pun....I seriously need to talk to a psychologist about my BPS (Bad Pun Syndrome or Backup Power Supply, which ever you prefer).
  • by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l@hotmai ... om minus painter> on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:28PM (#11003867) Homepage
    Don't miss out the wonderful WeatherFox [mozdev.org] extension for Firefox... crafteh coded this marvel after a suggestion of mine [mozillazine.org] on Mozillazine Forums. International Forecast in your statusbar. Can't beat that!
  • NOAA? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MP3Chuck (652277) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:28PM (#11003868) Homepage Journal
    Finally, a *AA action we can be happy about!
    • Re:NOAA? (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Capt'n Hector (650760)
      I modded this redundant, but people keep modding it up. So, I guess I'll have to forfeit that and explain:

      See this [slashdot.org] comment from 3 days ago.

  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:29PM (#11003874)
    This is a trend. OpenGIS has proposed open XML data for a while. Hopefully a lot more data will be exposed this way, making true "internet apps" in the future.

  • by Tim_F (12524)
    old people in Korea will make use of it is the only real question here.

    In Korea only old people know thier latitude and longitude.
  • by Eric Giguere (42863) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:29PM (#11003878) Homepage Journal

    It'll be easier to parse, but it won't be any more accurate.

    Eric
    • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:50PM (#11003986) Homepage Journal
      The NOAA today started releasing accurate targeted weather data in XML format to a wide audience.
      However unfortunately, because of a large slashdotting, you cannot get todays weather until tomorrow.
      Several planned hurricanes were put on hold for a few days because of the disruption.
      Impatient internet users were caught and fined for illegally downloading and sharing todays weather. One user had a large tornado and numerous thunderstorms on his server.
      • Yes I make mistakes. Don't we all?

        Dubya has said, in press conferences and one of the debates, that he has made no mistakes.

        Doesn't that just make you feel really, pitifully, inadequate?
    • It'll be easier to parse, but it won't be any more accurate.

      I think it depends on your definition of accuracy. For me at least, I don't usually bother with the specific predictions for anything more than this afternoon, and then usually only having checked what that forecast is based on. I think specific predictions are only provided to satisfy the people who demand definite and specific information without detail and regardless of accuracy, anyway. If you don't judge weather reports by the exact

      • I've heard the southern coast of Australia, in particular Melbourne, is one of the most difficult areas to accurately predict. I guess New Zealand wouldn't be too different, althought probably for different reasons.

        Australia is predominantly a large, dry land mass and the hot dry heat blowing down from northern Australia meets quite violently with the icy cold winds blowing north from the antarctica along the southern Australian coast line. This creates quite chaotic and unpredictable weather patterns. Any
  • by mumblestheclown (569987) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:29PM (#11003881)
    Meanwhile, other, shortsighted governments, including most European ones, still largely charge for basic weather information.

    This leads to two perverse situations:

    1. (small aircraft) Pilots and (small craft) boaters are put in the unfortunate place of balancing their personal safety against a few dollars in such a way that would never be tolerated if we were talking about automobiles and trains.
    2. often, european users of weather data rely on US-taxpayer funded US weather info for their own countries. of course, since the emphasis is not so much, this info and forecasts are not as detailed or thought through as those that their own governments (or hastily privatized equivalents) produce daily. It's one thing that the US is doing right.
    • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:39PM (#11003931) Homepage Journal
      NOAA servers contain much more weather info than just US states and territories; my program was pulling down everything from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Which was good for me - the site was designed for world travelers.
    • I had a friend who worked with the National Weather Service at the Department of Agriculture. You might find his explanation of this service interesting. He was often called upon to verify or negate rumors about blizzards or various weather calamities that may have been perpetuated by rivals. In effect, a banana exporter may find it profitable if people think the supply is in danger from foul weather. His group made sure that US importers didn't pay any fraudulent premiums by monitoring weather around t
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Two comments here:

      (1) In fact pilots get weather information for free in the UK.

      (2) And if pilots did have to pay, wouldn't that be right? Somebody has to pay, in order for the service to exist: why should the general taxpayer subsidise the hobbies of people who are so insanely rich that they can afford to fly aeroplanes for fun?
  • Too bad Linux still doesn't have any type of real support for SVG in its main browsers (Firefox didn't even suggest downloading the crappy Adobe plugin)
    SVG: Still Vapory Goodness in Linux.
  • by b00m3rang (682108) * on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:39PM (#11003932)
    Follow these directions: http://plugindoc.mozdev.org/windows1.html [mozdev.org]

    So far all it's managed to do is make Firefox use 100% CPU, and not much else. Let me know if you have better luck.

    IE just crashes.
  • Weather Market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:39PM (#11003935) Homepage Journal
    I want to see independent organizations datamining the NOAA weather data, running their own models, and making competing predictions. Then I want to see metaminers generating comparative "batting averages", keyed to current conditions, and get my weather forecasts from a client which knows which service is better at predicting the next few days/weeks/months starting with current conditions. That will give weather stenographers like the Weather Channel, and their TV news echo chamber, a real run for their money. Forecast@Home, anyone?
    • I think this is a good point. Comparing a large collection of weather predictions to what actually happened would just further increase the accuracy of models until we have it pretty darn good
      • That's how my wetware neural network beats the weather reports 90% of the time, after I've lived in the area for a year or so. Even though the weather has become much more chaotic in recent years.
    • Re:Weather Market (Score:3, Informative)

      by iammaxus (683241)
      I don't think the NOAA is publishing the raw data, so competing predictions would not really be possible.
      • TFA doesn't specify which data they're publishing, but after digging around the NOAA broken links, it's apparent that only forecast data [noaa.gov] are to be published. However, current conditions data are already published from a variety of sources, including the ones that show up in my GNOME Evolution "Summary" page. So this data really is most helpful in establishing a "baseline" against which to measure other forecasts. I expect the NOAA current conditions data will also be available. I'm really most interested in
    • It is called the Global Forecast Center (GFC), and it includes the use of a system called Dicast.

      For the last 25 months, TWC has produced its own forecasts by doing pretty much what the parent suggests: using its own computers to compare the current forecasts of the 'first principal' weather simulations produced by government supercomputers. The GFC then weights the forecast of each model by its historical accuracy for the weather situation it is modeling at each location, and produces a 'meta-forecast'

      • This is all good and well, but my perception over the past year is that the NWS forecasts are more accurate than TWC's forecasts for my area (Rochester, NY). The NWS is also more acurate than Accuweather. My guess is that neither of the these commercial services has a good handle on how Lake Ontario affects our local weather, but that is just a guess.
        • AFAIK No non-government group for weather modelliong for the reason that is not an economic service to provide. NOAA, Environment Canada, UK Met Office, etc. are all government departments because they spend huge dollars to buy supercomputers all in the Top 500 Supercomputer list to run their weather forecast models.

          A for-profit company cannot afford to purchase such hardware and still sell their forecaster (and more importantly to the end consumer, presentation) at an affordable price, and unless they mag
      • Is the GFC data published without a fee?
  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:40PM (#11003937) Journal
    Not that I [hostip.info] have anything to do with a geolocation project, you understand [grin]

    I did a pilot test for the Weather Xchange folks a couple of years back, and was monitoring the temperatures around the UK and making mpeg movies of location-averaged temperature snapshots - a bit like time-lapse photography. I've just moved to the US and the computer with the movies is on a ship somewhere, but it did look pretty cool (no pun intended :-) to see patterns of hot and cold move around the country over time...

    Simon.
  • by ErichTheWebGuy (745925) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @07:44PM (#11003956) Homepage
    http://weather.gov/data/current_obs/seek.php [weather.gov]

    The URL points to the RSS versions of the XML feeds. These have actually been available for quite some time.
    • ErichTheWebGuy pinted out the useful URL http://weather.gov/data/current_obs/seek.php
      I checked it out, and was immediately outraged to notice an ethnic bias here: my adopted home, the smallest state in the Union, is listed in the pop-up menu as "Rhoda Island" (though maybe it's just creeping Nick-At-Nite-ism and not an ethnic slur).
      Whatevah....
  • This makes me think, there must be piles of academic and government-funded data out there free for the taking. Sure would be nice if there was some central listing of sources of free data. Anyone ever come across anything like that?
    • This Google search [google.com] (filetype:xml site:.gov) turns up a whole bunch of files, so there's definitely a lot out there, same with a .edu search. It just needs someone to check what it all is. This isn't meant as a 'Google is your friend' post by the way, I was just interested to see.
  • by Fishstick (150821) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @08:16PM (#11004108) Journal
    I set up a little script a long time ago to get weather data from an XML feed from the weather channel for our office webcam. It's free and was really easy to use...

    http://www.weather.com/services/xmloap.html? [weather.com]
    #!/usr/local/bin/perl -w
    require LWP::UserAgent;
    use XML::DOM;
    use CGI qw(:standard);
    # first, get the XML feed
    my $ua = LWP::UserAgent->new(env_proxy => 1, keep_alive => 1, timeout => 30);
    my $base_url="http://xoap.weather.com/weather/local/6 0143?cc=*&prod=xoap";
    my $par="&par=[removed]";
    my $key="&key=[sign up to get one]";
    $response = $ua->get("$base_url$par$key");
    die "Error while getting ", $response->request->uri,
    " -- ", $response->status_line, "\nAborting"
    unless $response->is_success;
    my %weather = %$response;
    # then, parse out the crap we want
    my $parser = XML::DOM::Parser->new();
    foreach(keys %weather){
    $xmldoc = $parser->parse($weather{$_}) if(/content/);
    }
    foreach my $cur_cond ($xmldoc->getElementsByTagName('cc')){
    $curr_cond{'lastup'} = $cur_cond->
    getElementsByTagName('lsup')->item(0)->
    getFirstChild->getNodeValue;
    $curr_cond{'obsvst'} = $cur_cond->
    getElementsByTagName('obst')->item(0)->
    getFirstChild->getNodeValue;
    $curr_cond{'temp'} = cur_cond->
    getElementsByTagName('tmp')->item(0)->
    &nb s p; getFirstChild->getNodeValue;
    $curr_cond{'chill'} = $cur_cond->
    getElementsByTagName('flik')->item(0)->
    getFirstChild->getNodeValue;
    $curr_cond{'text'} = $cur_cond->
    getElementsByTagName('t')->item(0)->
    getFirstChild->getNodeValue;
    $curr_cond{'icon'} = cur_cond->
    getElementsByTagName('icon')->item(0)->
    getFirstChild->getNodeValue;
    }
    print header;
    print start_html("nice little cgi page to display the time/weather");
    print <<EOF;
    <p>&nbsp;</p>
    <p>&nbsp;</p>
    <p>&nbsp;</p >
    <p><font size="-1">WebCam is located on 9th floor in Itasca<br />
    pointed out southeast window overlooking Thorndale</font></p>
    <form name="clock" onSubmit="0">
    <input type="button" name="face" size=13 value="">
    </form>
    EOF
    print end_html;


    sorry about the atrocious formating - slashcode made me take out whitespace (what is the fricking point of an ecode tag supported if you can't post a small snippet like this without removing all the whitespace!?)

  • METAR isn't that bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ari_j (90255) on Sunday December 05, 2004 @08:35PM (#11004203)
    Previously, the data was technically available to the public, but in a format that's not easily deciphered.

    Presuming that this is a METAR replacement, then the format that was "not easily deciphered" is not really that bad at all. For the stuff that anyone reading Slashdot from under FL180 cares about, it's downright human-readable.

    Of course, if my presumption is wrong (the article didn't appear clear at first glance) and this is for predictions of future weather rather than reports of current weather, then ... neat. :)
    • it's downright human-readable

      Yes, and very nearly only human-readable. One gets the impression that METAR data is designed to be printed in a list so a pilot can review the weather on his flight path.

      Here's an example of METAR data for Boeing Field, Seattle:
      KBFI 060253Z 15007KT 10SM OVC017 05/02 A2967 RMK AO2 SLP045 T00500022 58003

      It looks like a space-delimited flat file, but it's really not. METAR does not have a fixed number of fields (some columns only appear under certain weather conditions or

    • It looks to me like this is precisely as you presume -- RSS/XML METAR feeds.

      I glanced through the NOAA site but didn't see a forecast portion in either the RSS or XML for a randomly chosen airport.

      And here I was hoping this would allow Meteorologist [sourceforge.net] to finally divest itself of that horrid abomination of Weather.com data. :-\

      Maybe partially...

      Not that an RSS METAR feed would be entirely unwelcome to this pilot, though. Someone just needs to come up with a decent software product to wrap it in, and figure
  • I don't want my damn weather information in XML format. I want it in Microsoft Word format. That is an open format with lots of documentation, and it will never go out of style. XML is complicated, proprietary, and secret, and if you put your data into this format, chances are that you will be locked in to a particular vendor, and if your vendor goes out of business, you will have essentially lost all of your valuable data.
  • I like having weather data on my site, and XML makes that easier to do. I now have live current weather conditions around my state, a short rundown of current conditions nationwide, watches, warnings and advisories for my state, tropical outlooks and hurricane info and the latest earthquakes! They are all integrated into the look and feel of the site, which is a plus. I had been using http://www.creativyst.com/Prod/18/ [creativyst.com] JSMFeed and recently supplemented that with a plug-in for my Moveabletype blog called
  • Just a note (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This info has been available since earlie this year. I have been running programs taking advantage of both the NDFD's 7 day forecast available via soap and NWS's current obs available by regular xml over http. NOAA really does alot of neat things and works hard to make them publically usable. Glad this came up.

    Nothing of importance to add, just that NOAA is working to make this stuff work for everyone (hence see the wed story about noaa going vendor non-specific).
  • I like looking at weather.com's satelite views of the changing weather. They have "animated" slideshows of the last five pictures. Each is a savable .jpg. It would be awesome if there was a way to automatically save these and use a photo viewer to replay the weather for any length of time.

    Even better would be if all the precipitation data and cloudcover pictures could be combined into a texture of the whole world and rendered. Figure a thousand or three polygons for the globe and have all the rest be t
  • Unfortunately, that SVG is sent as image/svg-xml, which isn't an SVG MIME type, so a compliant browser or plugin can't possibly show it...
  • wombatmobile claims

    From March 2005 SVG becomes part [mozilla.org] of the standard Mozilla/FireFox build.

    But the link provided doesn't indicate that SVG builds will become standard in Mozilla (suite, I assume) or Firefox builds. Where did this information about SVG becoming standard come from?

    Thanks.

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday December 06, 2004 @12:03AM (#11005292)
    Quoth the Wired article:

    Weather-industry companies were promoting the idea that the government restrict special interests that have the ability to pay for the data -- like Major League Baseball teams or citrus growers -- from acquiring it for free, [Barry Myers, Exec VP of AccuWeather] said.

    But isn't fair and equal access to information something the government *should be* supporting? Who cares if MLB or the citrus industry get weather info for free? If, as a side effect of providing weather info to the general public, MLB is able to improve their entertainment value and US citrus farmers are able to improve their crop, isn't that a bonus? It's virtually impossible to subsidize industry in this WTO day and age, so indirect (and free!) benefits like this are a good thing.

  • this seems pretty useless as the plugin only works with Windows and Mac, leaving Unix/Linux users in the lurch yet again. Same old same old.
  • Can someone create an extension that will allow me to install extensions?

    Specifically, I'd love to see an extension that will save my current tabs, restart firefox (after I've installed some arbitrary extension, and reload my tabs.

    I hate having to save some temp-bookmark of tabs, and then restart firefox and delete the faux-temp-bookmark of tabs.

    Call it, Firefox extension loader extension or something.

  • by CC12123 (443428)
    I've seen a lot of hating on the Semantic Web the past few weeks, but a lot of support when things like this come out. If you check out the definition of the Semantic Web [w3.org], you'll find:

    The Semantic Web provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.

    This is exactly what NOAA did with their weather data. It is a common misconception that the Semantic Web is supposed to be some gigantic cross-reference, or that AI weenies think

  • ...for a while now. Dunstan Orchard's 1976design.com [1976design.com] uses it to produce a computer-generated weather-accurate panorama at the top of his blog pages. See the Colophon on that site for details. If only I had that much free time...

  • I loaded their XSD up in XMLSpy, and there are some errors that it reports in the included XSD file: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/forecasts/xml/DWMLgen/sch e ma/parameters.xsd Specifically, there are a number of complexTypes that have attributes that have both default values and their use is required. If you have a default value, you should set the "use" to optional. Otherwise, a very good effort -- it's easy to understand once you know that weather is 3-dimensional (they have a location which includes a heig

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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