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Grid technology makes weather forecasts without boundaries a reality

The pioneering European SIMDAT project provides the basis for a cost-effective, global information system for meteorology and the environment.

Sankt Augustin / Reading. The results obtained from SIMDAT, a European research and development project, are increasingly in demand from European and international meteorological services and are likely to become acknowledged worldwide. SIMDAT Meteo is working to establish a Virtual Global Information System Centre (VGISC) for the national meteorological services of France, Germany and the UK based on Grid technology to be used within the World Meteorological Organisation Information System (WIS) to provide cost-effective and user-friendly services. VGISC offers a unique meteorological database integrating a variety of data and providing secure, reliable and convenient access via the Internet. It is targeted towards operational services and research in the domains of meteorology, hydrology and the environment. A Grid is defined as a software system that provides uniform, location-independent and secure access to geographically and organizationally scattered and varied resources (such as databases, analysis services and computational power). The objective of the SIMDAT project – which has 11 million euros of funding support from the European Commission and is co-ordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing (SCAI) – is to accelerate the uptake of Grid technologies in industry and services, particularly the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries as well as meteorology. The VGISC software developed by the SIMDAT Meteo project partners, led by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, will offer meteorological communities worldwide immediate, secure and convenient access to various data and analysis services as well as a user-friendly platform for storage of meteorological data. VGISC will thus enable the fast exchange of data for numerical weather forecasts, disaster management and research – independent of national frontiers and beyond organisational boundaries. Weather does not recognise any borders. To study historical data regarding German low mountain ranges, for example, one only needs to analyse data from the DWD. However, for a similar study in the German Alps one has to obtain data from the neighbouring states. A centralized catalogue for all meteorological data gathered from all the different countries is still missing. Here VGISC, as part of WIS, offers new solutions. The new system is a cost-effective, reliable and highly flexible “one-stop-shop” that combines available meteorological data into one system. This catalogue will replace the multiplicity of systems used today which has frequently resulted in incompatibilities, inefficiencies and the duplication of efforts. The infrastructure of this new system will be based on a mesh network of peers and meteorological databases. Messages are interchanged using algorithms based on mobile telephony technologies and metadata synchronisation on a journalised file system. The Grid technology is based on Open Grid Services Architecture Data Access and Integration (OGSA-DAI™) which is founded on web service and web technology concepts. In addition, standard protocols such as Open Archive Initiative (OAI) are used to synchronize and integrate existing archives and databases as well as to extend interoperability. Furthermore, VGISC will be a test bed for the ISO 19115 metadata standard by handling complex data in real time. The SIMDAT project is Europe’s contribution to the infrastructure technology of the emerging WIS as the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) modernizes and enhances its long-standing Global Telecommunications System (GTS), an international network for exchanging mainly meteorological data and warnings in real-time. In addition the new system will provide access for all environmental communities worldwide whereas GTS only allows access for the present national weather services of the member states. The opportunities for the new VGISC technology are excellent as VGISC is not only of interest within Europe: the national meteorological services of Australia, China, Japan, Korea and the Russian Federation’s National Oceanographic Centre have already deployed the SIMDAT software and are collaborating actively with the European partners. The software deployment is followed by an increasing number of meteorological centres and new meteorological datasets from Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States are steadily being added to the portal. VGISC software has been developed by the ECMWF, DWD, Météo France, the UK Met Office, EUMETSAT and other SIMDAT partners. The SIMDAT consortium comprises 25 European enterprises and research centres from various disciplines. The project is co-ordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute SCAI in Sankt Augustin, Germany. The Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing engages in computer simulations for product and process development and is a strong partner in industry. SCAI designs and optimizes industrial applications and makes calculations on high-performance computers. The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft undertakes applied research of direct use to private and public enterprise. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an international, inter-governmental organisation, supported by 28 European states. The objectives of the Centre include the provision of medium-range forecasts to the meteorological offices of its member states and co-operating states, maintaining a data archive, providing assistance in advanced education and support to the World Meteorological Organisation in implementing its programmes. For further information please contact: Clemens-August Thole, Fraunhofer SCAI, +49 2241 12 2178 Baudouin Raoult, ECWMF, +44 118 949 9404


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