Unidata Users Committee GRIB recommendations for WMO consideration

To:  Michelle Mainelli, NOAA/NCEP

The Unidata Users Committee recognizes the importance of the GRIB and BUFR data formats to the meteorological research and education communities of which we are a part. These formats have traditionally been difficult for non-expert users to read, and continued growth in their use and in their complexity makes it urgent that this difficulty be mitigated wherever possible. In particular, ambiguity in which external tables were used by the encoding software threatens the ability for decoding software to correctly interpret archived data.

The Unidata Users Committee requests that Michelle Mainelli (NOAA/NCEP), in her role as representative to the Unidata Users Committee, forward the following recommendations to the IPET-DRC (Inter-Programme Expert Team on Data Representation and Codes).  The Users Committee understands that Jeff Ator (also of NOAA/NCEP) is a representative on the IPET-DRC, and will deliver the recommendations for consideration at the Team's next meeting, scheduled for the week of May 21, 2012.

The recommendations are:

1) Improve handling of GRIB and BUFR tables by creating a web registry of machine readable tables and by requiring the inclusion of a reference to a registered table in GRIB and BUFR records. The reference would be an unambiguous signature of the table, such as an MD5 checksum.  Both WMO standard tables and local tables should be required to be registered.

2) Create reference software and/or a web service that can be used to validate that a BUFR/GRIB message is well-formed. It should read the message metadata and apply the registered tables, and also decode the data itself, returning a representation of all the metadata and data in a well understood encoding (e.g. ASCII or XML) so that other BUFR/GRIB reading software can be validated against this "reference implementation".

3) Establish an international GRIB and BUFR users group to share knowledge in an informal way, where users can ask questions and get advice.

4) Encourage WMO members to take part in a community effort to create a standard mapping of GRIB parameter tables to the CF (Climate and Forecast Convention) standard names.

More details can be found in this short paper:

https://www.unidata.ucar.edu/staff/caron/papers/GRIBarchivals.pdf

Thank you in advance for your consideration. 
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