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Weather Forecast Data

© January 2004 Tony Lawrence

The National Weather Service publishes a tremendous amount of information at https://www.nws.noaa.gov/. What you may not know is that they also make data available via ftp. There's an experimental project that you might enjoy.

Available Data

See https://www.nws.noaa.gov/ndfd/technical.htm for a listing of what you can get, and https://www.nws.noaa.gov/ndfd/technical.htm for the file names and ftp directories to access. For example, to get temperature forecasts for my area (Massachusetts), I'd get ftp://tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/SL.us008001/ST.expr/DF.gr2/DC.ndfd/AR.neast/ds.temp.bin

That's a packed binary file, and you need the "degrib" program to decode them. Get that from https://www.nws.noaa.gov/mdl/NDFD_GRIB2Decoder/. There are instructions on the web site for compiling a Linux version, but I found that all I needed to do after untarring the download was:

cd ./degrib/src/degrib
cp makefile.linux makefile
cp degrib /usr/bin

The degrib program is simple to use, but you first need a file containing the latitude and longitude for the point (or points) you are interested in. I used this:


which represents two points very near my home, one somewhere in Providence RI, and one at the far western part of Mass. You can look up coordinates at https://www.bcca.org/misc/qiblih/latlong.html; if the longitude is expressed as West, you want to multiply it by -1 for your file. Now to run degrib:

# looking at max temperature file here
degrib ds.maxt.bin -P  -pntFile lat -pntStyle 0

That produces this output:

element, unit, refTime, validTime, (42.060000,-71.110000), (42.070000,-71.100000), (41.480000,-71.200000), (42.250000,-73.200000)
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401140000, 38.191, 38.191, 38.191, 29.191
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401150000, 8.452, 8.452, 12.232, 6.292
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401160000, 12.341, 12.341, 16.301, 4.241
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401170000, 9.281, 9.281, 12.341, 5.321
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401180000, 22.177, 22.177, 23.257, 21.277
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401190000, 25.273, 25.273, 28.333, 24.373
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401200000, 30.299, 30.299, 31.199, 28.319

That's forecasted temperatures for the 14th through the 20th; I ran this on Jan 12,2004.

Different output formats are available. If you get something like this:

element, unit, refTime, validTime, (42.060000,71.110000), (42.070000,71.100000), (41.480000,71.200000), (42.250000,73.200000)
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401140000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401150000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401160000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401170000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401180000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401190000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000
MaxT, [F], 200401122100, 200401200000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000, 9999.000

it means that you either downloaded the wrong file (the point isn't included in the file you downloaded) or you misentered the points (did you forget to use a minus sign for longitude?).

Have fun. There's lots of other data available; current and historical. Finding it can sometimes be challenging, but just about anything you could ever want to know about weather is there somewhere.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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More Articles by © Tony Lawrence

FTP data isn't just in the directory I mentioned above. As I said, it can be hard to figure out where to look. These



are of some help.


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