Evolution of Data Exchange in the Caribbean

World Meteorological Congress decisions (2019 and 2021) to transition the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) to an operational phase has provided the impetus for Members to immediately commence implementation of the Global Basic Observation Network (GBON) and its data exchange requirements. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) in the Caribbean felt challenged to increase the generation of observations and the exchange of data to an hourly frequency to support global Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) centres and regional and national weather forecasts and warnings. Thus, the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO) undertook a survey among its members to baseline the status of their NMHSs’ observation network and local and global forecasting skill in order to coordinate the required assistance with WMO.

The survey highlighted that the NMHSs were facing a series of challenges related to real-time access and exchange of weather observations:

  • Many were struggling to get their weather observations transmitted consistently and sustainably
  • The data exchange frequency and thus the number of observations received by the WIGOS Monitoring Centres via the WMO Global Telecommunications System/WMO Information System (GTS/WIS) compared to the number expected differed considerably, failing to meet the GBON hourly requirement
  • Many of the stations were exchanging data internationally, but due to issues related to transmission, the observations were either not reaching, or not being accepted, by the Global NWP Centres due to data format issues
  • The vast majority of the NMHSs lacked the technical capacity and capability to exchange weather observations using the mandatory BUFR format and were continuing to exchange data in SYNOP format
  • Due to the BUFR issue, NMHSs with new stations registered in OSCAR/Surface using the new WIGOS Station Identifier format were not able to exchange data internationally – in some instances, this meant no international exchange of observations for an entire country
  • Though some NMHSs had many automatic weather stations (AWSs), only one or two were exchanging observations
  • The limited number of station data exchanged internationally meant that weather in the region was not adequately represented at Global NWP Centres, thus the skill of the NMHSs’ forecasts and model guidance output was reduced.

When CMO reached out to WMO to find technical solutions, the WIS team added the region’s NMHSs to the WIS2box pilot to resolve the problems with exchanging observations using the mandatory BUFR format. The WIS 2.0 workshop, hosted at CMO Headquarters in Trinidad and Tobago in June, championed the software as a solution. The event focused on solving the data transmission issues and growing the NMHSs capacities, understanding and commitment to transition to WIS 2.0 for their data exchange.

NMHSs presentations allowed for a deeper dive into the issues and the emergence of a clearer picture of the technical challenges. All but one NMHSs had a combination of manned and automatic weather stations with observations being generated and exchanged using the FM 12-IX SYNOP method. Though most NMHSs had more than five AWS, none were exchanging data automatically with the international community via GTS or WIS. In most cases, the AWSs – from different suppliers – were not providing real-time data and were configured in different formats. This complicated the automation and integration of data collection and transmission via the WIS2box. Members also highlighted financial challenges and IT gaps in terms of cloud services and server limitations, which would hamper data exchange even with the WIS2box. All the participants agreed to a take the actions below before a follow-up workshop planned in October 2023:

  1. Deploy and use WIS2box to exchange hourly data from their main AWSs
  2. Send manual observations via SYNOP for BUFR conversions using a standard manual data entry form, which is to be created
  3. Implement a regional WIS2 box as a WIS2 node to facilitate multiple countries data exchange as a project
  4. Members with sufficient resources would implement and manage their own WIS2box in tandem, participating in the regional WIS2box.

Over the last two and a half months, the CMO community spirit has been instrumental in overcoming the difficulties associated with implementing WIS2box. After the workshop, the participants from the NMHSs continued to meet regularly as a team and individually with the WMO experts. At their first meeting, all of the 14 participating NMHSs indicated a preference to join a shared regional WIS2box. This would require access to a cloud server, the configuration of the server, and a public IP address and a domain name. A letter of agreement between WMO and CMO – for WMO to provide access to the cloud server, including management, operations and maintenance support over four years – is in preparation. CMO will host the regional Caribbean WIS2box as a WIS2 node via the cloud server to facilitate the hosting and exchange of data for at least five (5) NMHSs WIS2boxes.

A seven-member team of regional administrators was established to implement the regional Caribbean WIS2box node in their own NMHSs then to assist the other seven NMHSs with configuring their sub-folders WIS2box files by October. To date, the team of administrators, led by Dwayne Scott of Belize, have met weekly and configured the CMO regional WIS2box node for the seven countries of the administrators: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cayman Islands, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. Three NMHSs – Belize, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago – are also working to configure their own WIS2box. The NMHSs are now publishing and exchanging real-time data with both Meteo-France and the China Meteorological Administration as global brokers subscribing to the Caribbean WIS2box. The data is available at http://wis2live.meteo.fr.

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