Public weather information is accessible to all

MetService is concerned that claims made by WeatherWatch this week on their website and in the media are misleading. The claims are about public access to weather information, particularly that related to public safety. In this blog, we refute those claims.

As NZ’s National Meteorological Service, NZ public safety is the highest priority for MetService.

WeatherWatch’s claims confuse two separate issues – the availability of weather information to the public; and the availability of weather data to businesses for commercial use.

Public weather information

MetService provides the following weather data to the public:

  • “public data” (see ‘The provision of public good weather services in New Zealand’ below) provided as a requirement of our contract with the Ministry of Transport
  • Other data on our website and apps

MetService also provides public weather information as a function of its obligations under the National Civil Defence Emergency Management Plan. Under that Plan, MetService is the agency responsible for providing warnings of severe weather – that is, public safety weather information – in New Zealand.

To meet these responsibilities, and also those for providing safety-critical weather information for marine and aviation activities, we employ a team of about 55 meteorologists who are trained to international standards and are on the job 24/7.

Public safety weather information is delivered through our forecasts and warnings, as well as via direct consultation with Regional Council flood / emergency managers and the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.

All public weather information is freely available to anyone for viewing on MetService websites.

WeatherWatch’s (or anyone else’s) use of public weather data for commercial purposes is not the same as the public having access to the information – and to our expert interpretation of it – for their safety.

What’s this all about then?

WeatherWatch’s claims that MetService is ‘blocking up-to-the-minute data’ and have begun ‘enforcing a policy of sharing only three-hour-old data’ with them are simply not true.

Earlier this week, WeatherWatch requested free observations data from us and we pointed them in the direction of the Open Access Data (see 2. below) that is freely available on our website. They subsequently requested pricing for commercial data from us, and advised us that they were “about to launch our biggest campaign yet against MetService”.

WeatherWatch’s claims purport to represent the interests of public safety. However, MetService believes that WeatherWatch has brought these claims to the media as part of a ‘campaign’ to force MetService to subsidise WeatherWatch’s commercial activities.

Commercial weather information

As an SOE, MetService operates as a commercial company that must fund itself through commercial activity. As such, we compete openly and fairly, both locally and internationally. We provide commercial data (see below), advice and weather solutions to all kinds of businesses, large and small, both here in New Zealand and around the world. You can find out more here or on our international website: www.metraweather.com

“Commercial data” means all data owned by MetService that can be used to generate commercial revenue – either through sale of the data (such as weather observations) for commercial use, as part of packages containing other value-added information (e.g., forecasts), or through display on our websites and apps, some of which display paid advertising.

MetService is – and has stated directly to WeatherWatch on a number of occasions that it is – happy to make any weather observations available to WeatherWatch under open access or commercial arrangements, according to the type of data and usage requested.

The provision of public good weather services in New Zealand

The provision of public good weather services in New Zealand is enabled by the Meteorological Services Act.

The “making and issuing of forecasts”, as described in the Act, requires substantial investments in a meteorological data acquisition network, forecasting systems, staffing and so on.

In order to meet obligations under the Act, the Ministry of Transport has contracted MetService to provide the services (forecasts, watches, warnings, and so on) and to maintain a meteorological data acquisition network that enables it to provide those services. One of the services required in the Contract is the provision of public weather data.

“Public data” means:

  1. Observational data from the Regional Basic Synoptic Network; that is, the (a) surface and (b) upper-air stations adequate to meet the requirements of Members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the specialised agency of the United Nations for meteorology, hydrology and related sciences, and of the WMO World Weather Watch. These data are distributed internationally via the WMO Information System (WIS) with no restrictions on use.
    1. 48 stations, three-hourly: http://metservice.com/maps-radar/coded-data/surface-data
    2. Four stations, twelve-hourly: http://metservice.com/maps-radar/coded-data/upper-temperature-part-a, etc.
  2. The Open Access Data set available on www.metservice.com consists of the data described above and the weather radar and weather satellite images described below, for the last 24 hours. These data are available for personal, professional or commercial use, subject to Terms & Conditions.
    • Weather radar images from the weather radars situated in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki, Wellington, Canterbury and Southland, updated every 3 hours;
    • Weather satellite images covering the eastern Australia-Tasman Sea-New Zealand region, updated every 3 hours.

MetService exceeds the requirements of the Contract by also providing, on its public website and through its free smartphone apps:

  • One-minute observations for many locations
  • Weather radar imagery every 7.5 minutes
  • One-hourly infra-red satellite imagery covering the Australia – New Zealand area

We welcome your questions on public weather information on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MetService