BOM opens up Forecast Explorer to the public

New tool will provide interactive maps with 7 day forecasts for temperature, rainfall, weather and wind forecasts, initially in Victoria

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has opened up the pilot of the next stage of its $30.5 million Next Generation Forecast and Warning System (NGFWS) to the public.

The BOM has been operating and evaluating a demonstration version of the NGFWS in Victoria since October 2008.

The Forecast Explorer system, which is being rolled out across Australia over five years, currently allows users to select a location in Victoria from a clickable map and obtain seven day forecasts with information such as maximum and minimum temperatures, wind speed and direction and daily rainfall.

According to the BOM’s web site, the NGWFS will, for the first time in Australia, make weather forecasts provided by the Bureau available in graphical or map form out to 7 days ahead for anywhere in the state.

Each weather element, for each time, is stored in the Australian Digital Forecast Database on an high-resolution six kilometre by six kilometre square grid and maps are generated for display in the new Forecast Explorer web interface.

Information stored in the weather grids is also used in the creation of text forecasts provided to the public utilising automated text generation software.

“This change is a completely new method of forecasting operations for the Bureau of Meteorology,” the site reads. “Forecasters are able to interact with the weather grids using a specially designed grid editing software package developed by the US National Weather Service and adapted for use in Australia.

“This package enables the meteorologist to input local weather knowledge and experience into the weather forecast process and value-add to the computer model guidance available to them.”

According to the federal environment minister, Peter Garrett, the Next Generation Forecast and Warning System will bring consistent forecast service across regional and urban Australia.

“Today’s improvements to the Bureau’s website are a first step into a totally new world of weather information which will ultimately become available for the whole country,” he said in a statement.

Once the pilot is completed, the upgrade will move on to include New South Wales. A functioning NSW weather map system is expected by the end of 2010.

In October, the BOM said it had just finished upgrading its network capacity and servers which host the BOM’s homepage. It also reported it was tracking ahead on implementing the recommendations of the Gershon Review.

It also reported that it had appointed a new CIO, Robert Lovery, to oversee the government department’s ongoing IT efficiency and cost cutting programs.

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