Whither Met Office openness update

A couple of months ago or so I lamented the fact that the raw temperature data from the UK met office is not publicly available.

I’ve just received some further feedback from the Met Office.

I was partially wrong, there is a lot more information available than I thought. Here’s a quote with a list of resources:

There is a wide variety of historical information that is available on our website and information can also be obtained from our National Meteorological Library and Archive (see http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/library/index.html).
National monthly and seasonal climate data for mean temperature and rainfall can be found back to 1914, and for sunshine back to 1929, from the following link:
Monthly station data for a range of stations can be found from the following link and goes back to 1853 for Oxford.
The Central England Temperature (CET) monthly series goes back to 1659 and daily series back to 1772.
There is also a HadUKP monthly series available which goes back to 1766 and daily series back to 1931.
Much of the above information is summarised on the following page.

The problem, and the reason I’m only partially wrong, is that all of the above data is normalised and averaged. What I’d like are the raw readings from the weather stations themselves, information that is not available without charge.

On the one hand I can understand why the information is charged for. The government sees a service that they have to provide for the armed services among others and then wonders whether they can offset some of the costs by selling services on the side.

The main problem I can see is that innovation is stifled by restricting access to the raw data. At present the Met Office has a monopoly on the presentation and interpretation of the raw data. If the raw data is opened up then others would have the opportunity to present it in new innovative ways.

I doubt that opening up the data would adversely affect the Met Office. My expectation is that most of their commercial customers are not interested in the raw data, they want the interpretation that the Met Office provide. Wouldn’t it be better for the Met Office to win business not just because they are the only supplier, but because they are the best?

Competition is good, and the Met Office should welcome it.

Whither Met Office openness

I’m currently in the process of putting together a unit test for an open source project. I wanted to use real met office temperature data, ideally from around York or Leeds.

I emailed the met office to enquire where I could find the data I require. The met office, being a publicly funded body, I naturally assumed the data would be publicly available.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here’s the reply I received:

All free information regarding data can be found at the following webpages http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/index.html

If you wish to purchase data please be aware that it would be a chargable service with data quotations starting from £250+VAT

The free information is a set of monthly averages for temperature, sunlight and rainfall going back to 1998. Why is data collected by a publicly funded body not freely available? Think of the innovation that could be unleashed in data visualisation if the raw data were set free.