GCOS GOOS WCRP/OOPC IX/3
The metadata contained within Publication No. 47 has in the past been made available in
electronic format and has been used both operationally (for example enabling PMOs to
efficiently service foreign VOS visiting their ports) and for climate research (for example
allowing the height correction of marine air temperatures, Rayner et al. 2003). Electronic files
are available for the period 1973 to 1998 and the first quarter of 1999. Since then, only one
file has been made available (the last quarter of 2001). In 2002 an extended metadata format
was introduced and later adopted by the VOSClim project as its metadata standard.
Unfortunately, the WMO have not yet been able to provide electronic data in this new format.
The lack of current and recent historical metadata is a serious problem both operationally for
VOS and VOSClim and for climate research. Current estimates are that the missing metadata
should become available during April 20044, perhaps prompted by the meeting of the
JCOMM Expert Team on Marine Climatology (ETMC) in July 2004. The importance of
historical VOS metadata to the climate community is demonstrated by a current US project to
digitize Publication No. 47 for the period 1955 to 1972 to allow its wider dissemination and
use by climate researchers.
It should be noted that SOT II set up a task team on metadata to asses the need for
change in WMO Publication No. 47 metadata format which will report to the ETMC in July
2004. Some changes will be easy to implement (such as adding codes for new types of
instrument) but the task team will also suggest further modifications to the metadata format. It
is essential that the implementation of any new format is properly resourced as the result of
the last format change was that the metadata became unavailable.
Action: Recommend that the WMO make the full historical record of VOS metadata
available in electronic form as soon as possible to meet the requirements of climate
researchers along with current metadata to support operators and forecasters. Resources for
maintenance of the VOS metadatabase and implementation of any code changes should be a
VOSClim requires a healthy VOS system for successful operation, the support
systems for both are the same. The second meeting of the WMO Ship Observations Team
(SOT II, WMO, 2003b) heard consistent reports of pressure on ship operations within
National Meteorological Agencies running the VOS program. An example was the recent
reduction by two thirds of the number of UK PMOs. There is also an increasing demand on
their time for support for other functions, such as the drifting buoy program. Experience has
shown that the enthusiasm of ships' officers participating in the VOS program (and hence the
quality and frequency of their observations) depends crucially on frequent visits from PMOs
providing links to the National Meteorological Agencies.
Action: The role of the Port Meteorological Officer network in improving VOS data quality
should be recognised and NWP centres should be encouraged to maintain or increase
resources for PMO activity.
As of June 2004 we still don t have recent WMO Pub 47 metadata.