The original Weather Observations Website (WOW) was launched in 2011 in partnership with the Department for Education and the Royal Meteorological Society. Since then, the platform has become extremely popular and now contains over 850 million observations from 200 countries around the world. Recent improvements to WOW mean that even more people can make a wider range of observations.
As well as contributions from people worldwide, WOW is also the main operational system for climate observers to submit their daily observations to the Met Office. The original WOW technology was built by a third party, and hosted on a cloud platform. At the time this innovative use of technology for Government received several industry awards.
Over the past year there has been a complete technological refresh of WOW with development of the WOW engine - a new and improved cloud-based solution for managing and collecting observations from all sorts of different sources. This includes the 'citizen scientists' and climate observers who have been using WOW for the last few years, as well as enabling the Met Office access to observations from new sources.
Technology is enabling us to capture non -standard observations, for example those provided automatically from moving platforms such as cars or ships. It is also possible to define new variables that have not been foreseen, so we can respond to changing requirements.
Capturing 'ground truth'
The ability of our supercomputer to accurately forecast the weather is built on the foundation of high-quality global observations, together with our ability to understand the impacts of the resulting weather. Our partners in civil contingencies and the Natural Hazard Partnership are increasingly seeking to quantify the impacts of severe weather on infrastructure and people. Working with the Environment Agency we're investigating how best to collect and use public reports of flooding and other impacts of severe weather to improve future forecasts and warnings. The ability of the next generation of WOW to capture 'ground truth' through photographs, video and social media will be a powerful tool to enable us to do this.
WOW is also used by Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands to increase their engagement with citizen scientists. The new infrastructure enables the easy addition of new collaborators and data types, and also opens up access to well-documented and well-managed application programming interfaces (APIs) enabling collaborators to make maximum use of WOW. A 'white label' WOW template is now available for other national meteorological services so they can quickly manage third party observations.
Inspiring and educating
The next generation of WOW is also inspiring and educating a new generation of scientists through our WOW Schools pilot project. We have provided ten schools across the country with automatic weather stations and bespoke education materials so students can develop their skills relating to the meteorological data they are collecting. Using a combination of physical observation methods and automated technology students can record weather observations, make practical measurements, analyse information and share data via WOW.