by Baudouin Raoult, Clemens-August Thole and Ute Gärtel-Zafiris

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

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. This will be based on Grid technology and will be used within the World Meteorological Organization 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.

Discovery and access to meteorological data through an internet portal
Discovery and access to meteorological data through an internet portal

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 coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing (SCAI)  is to accelerate the uptake of Grid technology not only in meteorology, but also in areas such as the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries.

The VGISC software, developed by the SIMDAT Meteo project partners and led by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), 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, while remaining independent of national frontiers and beyond organizational boundaries.

Weather does not recognise borders. To study historical data regarding the German low mountain ranges, for example, one only needs to analyse data from the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD). However, for a similar study in the German Alps, one must obtain data from neighbouring states, since a centralized catalogue for meteorological data gathered from all the different countries is still lacking.

It is in this type of situation that VGISC, as part of WIS, can offer 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 current multiplicity of systems, which frequently result 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 technology and metadata synchronization on a journalized 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 act as a testbed 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 to all environmental communities worldwide, whereas the GTS only gives access to the existing 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 coordinated 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. 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 organization, 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 cooperating states, maintaining a data archive, and providing assistance in advanced education and support to the World Meteorological Organization in implementing its programmes.


Please contact:
Clemens-August Thole and Ute Gärtel-Zafiris
Fraunhofer SCAI, Germany
Tel: +49 2241 14 2178

Baudouin Raoult
European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, UK
Tel: +44 118 949 9404

Next issue: July 2023
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