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Progress toward High-Resolution, Real-Time Radiosonde Reports

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  • 1 ECMWF, Reading, United Kingdom, and Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom
  • | 2 Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California
  • | 3 Central Aerological Observatory of Roshydromet, Dolgoprudny, Russia
  • | 4 NOAA, College Park, Maryland
  • | 5 Météo-France, Toulouse, France
  • | 6 ECMWF, Reading, United Kingdom
  • | 7 Japan Meteorological Agency, Tokyo, Japan
  • | 8 Deutscher Wetterdienst, Offenbach, Germany
  • | 9 Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • | 10 Meteorological Service of Canada, Dorval, Quebec, Canada
  • | 11 Met Office, Exeter, United Kingdom
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Abstract

Some real-time radiosonde reports are now available with higher vertical resolution and higher precision than the alphanumeric TEMP code. There are also extra metadata; for example, the software version may indicate whether humidity corrections have been applied at the station. Numerical weather prediction (NWP) centers and other users need to start using the new Binary Universal Form for Representation of Meteorological Data (BUFR) reports because the alphanumeric codes are being withdrawn. TEMP code has various restrictions and complexities introduced when telecommunication speed and costs were overriding concerns; one consequence is minor temperature rounding errors. In some ways BUFR reports are simpler: the whole ascent should be contained in a single report. BUFR reports can also include the time and location of each level; an ascent takes about 2 h and the balloon can drift 100 km or more laterally. This modernization is the largest and most complex change to the worldwide reporting of radiosonde observations for many years; international implementation is taking longer than planned and is very uneven. The change brings both opportunities and challenges. The biggest challenge is that the number and quality of the data from radiosonde ascents may suffer if the assessment of the BUFR reports and two-way communication between data producers and data users are not given the priority they require. It is possible that some countries will only attempt to replicate the old reports in the new format, not taking advantage of the benefits, which include easier treatment of radiosonde drift and a better understanding of instrument and processing details, as well as higher resolution.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Bruce Ingleby, ECMWF, Shinfield Park, Reading RG2 9AX, United Kingdom, E-mail: bruce.ingleby@ecmwf.int

A supplement to this article is available online (10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00169.2)

Abstract

Some real-time radiosonde reports are now available with higher vertical resolution and higher precision than the alphanumeric TEMP code. There are also extra metadata; for example, the software version may indicate whether humidity corrections have been applied at the station. Numerical weather prediction (NWP) centers and other users need to start using the new Binary Universal Form for Representation of Meteorological Data (BUFR) reports because the alphanumeric codes are being withdrawn. TEMP code has various restrictions and complexities introduced when telecommunication speed and costs were overriding concerns; one consequence is minor temperature rounding errors. In some ways BUFR reports are simpler: the whole ascent should be contained in a single report. BUFR reports can also include the time and location of each level; an ascent takes about 2 h and the balloon can drift 100 km or more laterally. This modernization is the largest and most complex change to the worldwide reporting of radiosonde observations for many years; international implementation is taking longer than planned and is very uneven. The change brings both opportunities and challenges. The biggest challenge is that the number and quality of the data from radiosonde ascents may suffer if the assessment of the BUFR reports and two-way communication between data producers and data users are not given the priority they require. It is possible that some countries will only attempt to replicate the old reports in the new format, not taking advantage of the benefits, which include easier treatment of radiosonde drift and a better understanding of instrument and processing details, as well as higher resolution.

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Bruce Ingleby, ECMWF, Shinfield Park, Reading RG2 9AX, United Kingdom, E-mail: bruce.ingleby@ecmwf.int

A supplement to this article is available online (10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00169.2)

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