This treasure grows every day but it is a common property of treasures that accessing them can be difficult. Historically the atmospheric, meteorological and seismological communities are separate worlds with their own data formats and tools for data handling making sharing of data difficult and cumbersome. On the other hand, KNMI data is becoming increasingly of interest to the outside world because of the continuously improving spatial and temporal resolution of e.g. model and satellite data and the interest in historical datasets.
New user communities have come into existence that use geographically based datasets from many different fields in a cross-fertilizing way. This development is supported by the progress made in Geographical Information System (GIS) software. Almost all KNMI datasets contain the geospatial dimension and could be offered to the outside world in a scientifically correct and GIS-friendly way making it less cumbersome to work with.
The ADAGUC project1) (Atmospheric Data Access for the Geospatial User Community) aims at reducing the need for users to invent their own converter and mapping tools. Selected space borne atmospheric datasets will be made accessible by GIS to allow easy data comparison, resampling, selection, manipulation and visualization. Representatives of the (inter)national user communities are strongly involved in the project to guarantee proper accommodation of the user requirements. Next to developing easy access to KNMI datasets for the outside world, the (international) operational meteorology and meteorological research can profit from the introduction of GIS technology (see e.g. COST 7192)). Within ADAGUC emphasis will be laid on interoperability and harmonization of data resources such that a ‘GIS -enabled’ user can work with these datasets. ADAGUC serves as a pilot for applying GIS-technology in the future to the seismological, meteorological and climatology datasets of KNMI.
The ADAGUC project will aim at delivering the following: Open Source conversion tools for conversion of selected atmospheric datasets into an Open Standard GIS format, publish atmospheric datasets in the previous mentioned GIS format, and a web service to demonstrate the usability of the above to the geospatial and atmospheric community. Dissemination of results is pursued by publications, workshops and international co-operation. The challenge is to create an environment that has the potential to become the next generation operational solution, dealing with international frameworks, standards, and cross domain end-users.
In general (geo) data usage is accomplished by tools that are provided by third parties, for instance commercial companies or government institutes that see profit in or need for geospatial solutions. Other stakeholders are working on the standardization of data formats, metadata descriptions and services that can be used to interchange geospatial information. The most relevant developments in tooling, standards and services are discussed below.
Google Earth made the public aware of the importance of geospatial information. As a next step third parties, commercial and non-profit organizations, are exploring the possibilities to place their own products into the Google Earth system. A wealth of geo-information is becoming available via Google Earth, ranging from holiday pictures, hotels, forest fires, earthquakes and meteorological forecasts. An example (Figure 1a and 1b) with Sciamachy data can be found at the SRON website3). Google Earth uses the KML (Keyhole Markup Language) standard. This standard is under control of Google Earth and is turned into a propriety format thereby limiting the development of an open user community. Moreover, for scientific and professional applications Google Earth is of limited use despite its important role for GIS-awareness.
A well established set of GIS tools is a necessary framework to deal with different kinds of spatial data. Since the 1960’s GIS has evolved from digital cartography into geo-ICT and offers standardized ways to store, process, analyze and visualize spatial data. The current (commercial and free) GIS software cannot deal with the large data volumes and the temporal aspects of atmospheric data yet, although these issues are being addressed because of pressure from user interest groups. A good example of this is the support of NetCDF (Network Common Data Form) COARDS (Cooperative Ocean/atmosphere Research Data Service) and CF (Climate and Forecast Metadata Convention) in ArcGIS 9.2 (commercial GIS system from ESRI). NetCDF is a set of software libraries that enable the (technical) information interchange unambiguous across different computer platforms. COARDS and CF are metadata definitions (descriptions) to promote the exchange of information stored in NetCDF files by using a common standard. The incorporation of NetCDF in ArcGIS was promoted by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research4)(NCAR) and ESRIs Atmospheric Special Interest Group5).
ESRI is the world leader in professional GIS software. ESRI provides solutions to deal with geospatial problems. Their software products serve the ‘earth bound’ communities like governments (e.g., cadastre like tasks), road and traffic organizations, petrochemical industries, soil and vegetation related institutes. ESRI’s next step is to fulfil the wishes of the atmospheric data users: importing of atmospheric data formats, satellite view transformations and time resolutions from centuries to seconds are all on the list of being investigated by ESRI for future releases (Figure 2).