NOAA's growing weather observations database goes into full operations
This graphic depicts the number of weather data sources prior to the development of MADIS. (Credit: NOAA)
Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System harnesses more than 64,000 sources of data
Weather forecasting begins with observations. For several years NOAA has worked to fill gaps in observations by tapping into such varied sources as airlines, other private companies, universities, state highway and agriculture departments, and private citizens.
These partners collect information such as temperatures, winds, pressure, humidity from the outside of airplanes, temperatures on highway surfaces, soil temperatures in key farming states and other environmental conditions.
More robust observational data gives weather forecasters better information to develop a forecast. But data from so many different sources – 64,000 – is not easily integrated. That’s where scientists at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) came in to develop the system called the Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System (MADIS) to make this wealth of data more accessible and usable.
MADIS brings the information together, provides quality checks on the data, and puts it into a highly organized, easily accessible and usable format for forecasters and the public to use. This research project successfully transitioned into operations by NOAA’s National Weather Service in late January. It is another example of NOAA’s work to strengthen the effectiveness of the National Weather Service to provide environmental intelligence to communities and businesses, enabling them to become ready, responsive and resilient in the face of extreme weather, water and climate events.
“The transition of this research project has been an all NOAA team effort and we are proud of how well MADIS meets the operational needs of the global weather forecasting community,” said Greg Pratt, of ESRL's Global Systems Division, who is the lead scientist charged with developing and transitioning MADIS.
“We took a major step on January 21, 2015 when we successfully transitioned this important data collection and distribution system developed by NOAA research scientists to NOAA’s National Weather Service,” said Steven Pritchett, the National Weather Service MADIS program manager. “This means that the National Weather Service will fully support the system, regularly monitor and update the information and ensure high quality useable weather observations are available seven days and week, 24 hours a day.”
The system is now helping not only NOAA’s weather forecasters across the country but also many federal, state, and local partner agencies, universities, and private companies.
"MADIS data has proved incredibly helpful in increasing our overall awareness of major weather, especially wind, cold temperatures and storm systems,” said Chris Thompson, the Geographical Information Systems Manager at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Preparedness. “This information is so reliable, we use it every day and it helps us understand what’s happening with the weather so we’re able to respond appropriately to situations that arise.”
While developing MADIS, NOAA scientists forged new partnerships, increasing the number of distinct sources of weather information from 20,000 to 64,000 over the past several years. NOAA’s Citizen Weather Observing Program, a long running partnership observing program, generates between 40 to 50 new sources of data for MADIS each week.
“To be of value to NOAA and the larger weather community, we will need to continue to add new sources of environmental data,” said Tim McClung, Chief of the Science Plans Branch for the NWS. “Scientists at NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and NOAA’s National Weather Service are committed to working together to adapt MADIS to bring in, integrate and deliver new information in a highly usable format for both NOAA and other users.”