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Workshop on Strategy for Providing Atmospheric Information Panel 2: Interoperability and Compatibility. Formatting Standards Kevin Robbins, Director Southern Regional Climate Center Louisiana State University.

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Formatting Standards Kevin Robbins, Director Southern Regional Climate Center

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Formatting standards kevin robbins director southern regional climate center
Workshop on Strategy for Providing Atmospheric InformationPanel 2: Interoperability and Compatibility

Formatting Standards

Kevin Robbins, Director

Southern Regional Climate Center

Louisiana State University

Formatting Standards

Formatting standards kevin robbins director southern regional climate center

Data formatting standards are invaluable in providing interoperability and compatibility to technically complicated systems.

The reward offered to an IT manager in selecting a standard is….

..… the opportunity to choose from an infinite number of competing options!

David Wilensky (formerly, SRCC)

Formatting Standards

Scope of discussion
Scope of Discussion

  • Storage format standards have little or no effect on compatibility between different computer systems

  • Interoperability and compatibility between computer systems is determined by transmission and transfer format standards

Formatting Standards

Benefits of formatting standards
Benefits of Formatting Standards

  • Facilitate data exchange

  • Provide product consistency

  • Facilitate reusable and maintainable software code by the producer and consumer

  • Standards are:

    Open to future improvements yet mindful of past technologies

Formatting Standards

Most formatting standards now used are only familiar to the meteorological community

















Most Formatting Standards Now Used Are Only Familiar to the Meteorological Community.

Formatting Standards

Why are there so many formats
Why Are There So Many Formats?

  • Format development was incremental

  • Transmission bandwidth was limited

  • Receiving devices were primitive

  • Products were made to be human-readable

  • Computer processing power was limited

  • Different products had different requirements

  • Data formatting standards were unavailable

Formatting Standards

Why consider change
Why Consider Change ?

  • The clientele for weather information has become more diverse

  • Data formatting should be defined using open standards having broad acceptance

  • Transmission bandwidth has increased

  • The need for human-readable products has diminished: Computers are ubiquitous

  • Sophisticated formatting schemes can handle many different encoding requirements

Formatting Standards

Clientele should drive decisions
Clientele Should Drive Decisions !

  • In the past, most information was intended for internal use, international exchange, or (primarily) for the aviation industry

  • Now, many industries, large and small, are looking for weather information for daily operations and decision-making

  • Data and data products should be accessible to this broader spectrum of clientele

Formatting Standards


NWS (internal needs)

NOAA Agencies

Other Federal Agencies


International Organizations (WMO)








K-12 and Universities



Formatting Standards

How should clientele be served
How Should ClienteleBe Served ?

  • Through Intermediaries

    • Media

    • PCMs

    • Ad hoc WWW providers

  • Directly

    • Push data to clientele (data feed)

    • Allow client pull (website / FTP / client apps)

Formatting Standards

Broader clientele interaction requires open formatting standards

Text and Digital Data

netCDF, HDF, etc

Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS)

GRIB (open source)

BUFR (open source)


with CSS or XSL

Graphic Images



Generally volatile

Generated on-the-fly

Easy to adapt formats to currently accepted standards

Broader Clientele Interaction Requires Open Formatting Standards

Formatting Standards

Multiple transfer standards
Multiple Transfer Standards

  • Push technologies can rely on a limited number of standards, but may benefit from a variety of unique data feeds tailored to the intended audience

  • Pull technologies must support a broader range of standards to accommodate the specific requirements of individual requests

Formatting Standards

Xml example weather observation markup format omf
XML ExampleWeather Observation Markup Format (OMF)


KMRY 091345 11003KT 8SM BKN004 10/09 A3006 ^M^M

RMK A02CIG 003V008 SLP193 T01000094=^M^M

<SYN Title=‘Metar’ TStamp=‘950104440’ LatLon= ’36.583, -121.85’

BId=‘724915’ Sname=‘Monterey Peninsula’ Elev=’77’>


<SYCODE>RMK A02 CIG 003V008 SLP193 T01000094</SYCODE>

<SYG Wind=‘110, 1.5’ Vis=‘12880’ Ceiling=‘400’ T=’10’ TD=‘9’ AS=‘1018’

Clouds=’66///’> 11003KT 8SM BKN004 10/09 A306</SYG>


Formatting Standards

Impediments to change
Impediments to Change

  • Agency resistance to change

    • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it !

  • Significant retooling costs

  • Compliance to international standards for data exchange (WMO)

  • Constantly evolving standards

  • Complexity of a modernization effort

Formatting Standards


  • Change should be driven by clientele demands and anticipated needs

    • Clientele should be fully engaged in the process

  • Modernization should adhere to accepted formatting standards

  • Technology is no longer a limiting factor in the deployment of modern data formats

  • Data formats should be designed within a comprehensive, internally consistent system

Formatting Standards

And finally

Modernization should be:

“ to future improvements yet mindful of past technologies..”

And Finally…

Formatting Standards

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