Memorandum submitted by The Met Office
This memorandum responds to the Trade and Industry
Committee's letter of 20 March 2000 to the Chief Executive of
The Met Office. The requested issues are addressed, in summary
The Met Office uses space as an essential
source of data on which to base its weather forecast and other
services to customers. It participates in the development of policy
which affects the continuing and developing supply of data: in
EUMETSAT, in BNSC and (through BNSC) in ESA and the EC;
The Met Office funds the UK contributions
to the programmes and infrastructure of EUMETSAT (£13.8 million
in FY 2000-01), except for the EUMETSAT Polar System programme,
which is at present funded by MOD. The Met Office does not contribute
directly to the programmes of ESA, although there is some indirect
funding through EUMETSAT. It remains to be determined how EUMETSAT's
future activities in support of climate monitoring and the detection
of global climatic changes will be funded. The UK contributions
to EUMETSAT programmes are capitalised, and are charged according
to depreciation to a group of public sector customers who fund
the core activities of The Met Office. The public sector provides
the larger proportion of revenue of The Met Office;
customers for EUMETSAT digital data
are charged according to EUMETSAT Data Policy. We perceive the
largest wholesaling market in the UK to be with Broadcasters either
directly or through meteorological service providers;
we are pleased to see initiatives
arising from the private sector to propose earth observing systems
and are prepared to examine proposals and evaluate data with a
view to establishing clear costs and related benefits;
the market for EUMETSAT data, beyond
the national meteorological services, has matured quickly but
is now static. The availability of a certain amount of free data
has limited this market. However, the main motivation to contribute
to EUMETSAT programmes remains our own use of the data in support
of public sector customers.
1. THE MET
1.1 The Met Office is an Executive Agency
owned by the Ministry of Defence and has operated as a Trading
Fund since April 1996. Its purpose is to be an effective, modern
and efficient national meteorological service (NMS) for the UK.
It aims to provide its customers, now and in the future, with
the range of services they require, in a timely and effective
manner, and at a price they can afford. Our vision is: through
unrivalled know-how, to enable individuals, society and enterprises
everywhere to make the most of the weather and the natural environment.
1.2 The public sector customers of The Met
Office are principally in the areas of Defence and Civil Aviation,
and it provides specific services to a number of civil departments.
The fundamental infrastructure, including research, observations,
IT and forecasting, is funded by a Core Customer Group consisting
of Departments and public sector organisations. Although these
arrangements are under review, as a result of financial pressure
and the proposed privatisation of NATS, it is expected that they
will continue for the foreseeable future with only minor modifications.
There is also a data wholesaling operation to distribute basic
Core data and products (including space data) to other service
providers in the UK and abroad.
1.3 Commercial customers world-wide are
handled through seven Business Units focusing on Infrastructure,
Utilities, Consultancy, Media, Marine, Retail and Systems.
1.4 All services (see Annex) depend on the
infrastructure described above, which is fully integrated and
inseparable. It is impossible to forecast the behaviour of the
atmosphere sufficiently accurately without: (a) observing it globally
and regularly, (b) collecting those observations quickly through
IT systems and networks, (c) assimilating them in to numerical
models of the atmosphere and oceans (based on the laws of physics
and dynamics), (d) running those models on advanced supercomputers
to predict future states of the atmosphere. Research is required
to constantly improve the performance of those models and to develop
the processing of new types of data that become available.
1.5 The observations may be divided into
two classes: those made by instruments in situ and remotely
sensed observations. Observations made remotely from space cost
just over one-third of the total spend on observations for which
the budget in FY 2000-01 is £35 million.
2.1 This memorandum is provided in answer
to the Trade and Industry Committee's letter of 20 March to the
Chief Executive of The Met Office. The questions therein are addressed
in an order which allows the various background elements to be
introduced in a helpful sequence.
3. WHAT USE
3.1 Meteorology has been the driver for
space missions since 1960, when the first downward looking camera
flew in space on the TIROS-1 mission of NASA. Early missions such
as this and its successors provided mainly cloud imagery, but
by the early 1970s instruments were taking vertical soundings
of the atmosphere from space (vertical profiles of temperature
3.2 The Met Office began to address this
new source of data in 1974. The use of space is not an objective
per se: space is used where it is considered essential
or beneficial in providing services to customers. Thus we are
involved in the application of space to meteorology and climatology.
We have now reached the point where cloud imagery, received regularly,
is indispensable for very short-period forecasting (up to 12 hours
ahead) and vertical soundings from space complement a network
of surface based soundings as a principle source of data for weather
forecasting up to 10 days ahead.
3.3 Satellite data are used hour-by-hour,
day in day out, 365 days per year, in support of forecasting.
Some data, including vertical soundings and winds derived from
the motion of cloud systems, are used to maintain knowledge of
the atmospheric state in forecasting models used for numerical
weather prediction (NWP). Imagery is provided directly to forecasters
so that they can monitor the development of weather systemsthis
is particularly essential in the case of rapidly developing or
fast moving systems which can cause severe weather at short notice.
The Commercial and Business Divisions of The Met Office use the
forecasting outputs and in some cases the satellite data themselves
to produce a range of value-added services for customers in different
market sectors. Without satellite data, it would be impossible
to maintain and improve our services to customers.
3.4 Satellite data are used in climate studies:
to generate climatologies of past years, to validate climate models
and to monitor climate and indicators of global change.
3.5 Satellite data are, however, only one
of the sources of data on which The Met Office bases its services.
In general the various space-based and in situ observing
systems are regarded as complementary. For example, vertical soundings
made by balloon-borne instruments have greater vertical detail
than those made by space instruments, but the latter have much
better global coverage. An element of overlap is necessary in
order to inter-calibrate the various data sources.
3.6 The Met Office has interest, to various
degrees, in may space missions. These include operational missions
aimed at weather forecasting and climate monitoring, but also
experimental and demonstration missions that provide data for
scientific research aimed at improving weather forecasting services.
This is now explained in greater detail.
3.7 The World Meteorological Organisation
(a UN Agency) co-ordinates activities in meteorology, climatology
and hydrology world wide through its Members (now numbering over
180 nations including UK). One of the main functions is to maintain
and develop a Global Observing System (GOS), to which all Members
contribute in situ observations and some contribute space
data, and whose data are available operationally to all Members.
The space component of the GOS consists of five geostationary
satellites, approximately equally spaced around the equator, together
with two polar-orbiting satellites. At present they are provided
by national or international agencies in Europe, USA, Russia and
Japan. The European agency is EUMETSAT (the European Organisation
for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) to which 17
Governments belong, including HM Government. The Met Office funds
the infrastructure and programmes of EUMETSAT, in one case on
behalf of MOD, and represents the UK at the Council and subsidiary
bodies of EUMETSAT. The Met Office has also provided a number
of instruments to the USA polar satellite programme in exchange
for access to the full data stream from those satellites.
3.8 At present the programmes of EUMETSAT
consist of the following. The Meteosat Transition Programme provides
for the operational data services until the end of 2003 from the
geostationary Meteosat series: currently Meteosat-7 (operational
over the Greenwich meridian, 0°, Meteosat-6 (backup) and
Meteosat-5 (a special assignment at 63°(E). The Meteosat
Second Generation (MSG) Programme, executed in parallel with the
MSG-1 development programme in ESA, provides for the continuity,
out to 2013, of data from the 0° (position, with enhancements
that can be exploited to improve detailed weather forecasting
services up to 12 hours ahead. The EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS)
Programme, part of which is executed jointly with the ESA METOP-1
development programme, will provide observations from METOP satellites
in polar orbit from 2003 to 2017. METOP will form the European
component of the Initial Joint Polar System (the complementary
satellites being provided by the USA) as part of the GOS. These
observations will have particular application in NWP for weather
forecasts out to 10 days ahead.
3.9 The Convention of EUMETSAT is being
amended to include an additional objective to contribute to the
operational monitoring of the climate and the detection of global
climatic changes (this is at present subject to final ratification
by the last two Member States). The operational meteorological
observations already form a potentially valuable set for use in
climate monitoring. In addition the Geostationary Earth Radiation
Budget instrument (GERB) will fly on the MSG series as an opportunity
instrument in support of climate studies. GERB is funded by the
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and partners in Belgium
and Italy and is being built and supported by the Rutherford Appleton
3.10 The Met Office has been instrumental
in a collaborative venture to develop software to exploit in NWP
the data from a new suite of instruments on the American polar-orbiting
satellites. The resulting software package is to be made freely
available to all national meteorological services (NMSs) and other
organisations that undertake NWP. This theme is to be continued
in respect of other instruments in the Satellite Application Facility
(SAF) for NWP, which is jointly funded by EUMETSAT and a consortium
of European NMSs and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather
Forecasting (ECMWF), led by The Met Office. The Met Office is
collaborating with the Danish Meteorological Institute in a SAF
to develop software to exploit a new sounding instrument, GRAS,
which will fly on METOP satellites.
3.11 The Met Office undertakes some research
into new space instrumentation for observing the atmosphere, the
ocean surface and the cryosphere and to develop software to make
best use of the data, for example, in NWP and in ocean models
and in verifying climate models. In recent years the instruments
of interest have been a scatterometer (measuring winds at the
ocean surfacefor which we provided a Principal Investigator),
a Radar Altimeter (measuring wave heights), the ATSR (sea surface
temperatures) and the SAR (wave spectra) on the ERS-1 and ERS-2
satellites of ESA. The scatterometer series will continue on METOP
and the others on the ENVISAT satellite of ESA. For the future,
The Met Office is following with scientific interest the progress
of missions proposed or selected for the Earth Observation Envelope
Programme (or "Living Planet" Programme) of ESA, in
particular the Atmospheric Dynamics Mission (ADM) and the Earth
Radiation Mission (ERM). The deliverables of the Gravity and Ocean
Circulation Experiment mission (GOCE) are of potential use to
The Met Office in ocean applications.
4. WHAT IS
UK SPACE POLICY?
4.1 The Met Office is a partner in the British
National Space Centre (BNSC) and this is formally executed through
its Chief Executive's membership of the BNSC Resources Board.
The Met Office's Head Space Programme also attends the Earth Observation
Programme Board and the weekly Directors' meetings of BNSC. We
work directly with staff of BNSC on relevant issues, which consist
mainly of: the programmes of EUMETSAT, the Earth Observation programmes
of ESA, UK space policy and matters of common interest with other
partners (see paragraphs 4.2-4.8). The Met Office's Press Officer
is a member of the BNSC Communications Strategy group and co-ordinates
with the Information section of BNSC as appropriate.
4.2 The Met Office sits on the MOD's Defence
Program Group (Space), which advises the Secretary of State for
Defence on the Ministry's space activities.
4.3 Since The Met Office represents the
UK in EUMETSAT, it consults BNSC and UK industry (through UKISC)
as well as its own experts before each regular meeting of the
EUMETSAT Council in June and November. Papers are distributed
as appropriate, subject to necessary confidences, and comments
invited on the various matters to be discussed or decided. Briefing
meetings are held, and BNSC is invited to join the UK delegation.
4.4 Historically, The Met Office represented
UK on ESA's Programme Board for Meteorology. Since this Board
was merged into the Programme Board for Earth Observation, The
Met Office has retained a place in the UK delegation alongside
BNSC and participates in the briefing process.
4.5 The Met Office's objectives and activities
in the space field are undertaken in support of the current Corporation
Plan of The Met Office as agreed by the Secretary of State for
Defence. They form part of the national effort and The Met Office
has been fully involved in the development of both the previous
Government's Space Policy and the present Government's Space Strategy
1999-2002, with the aims of completeness, consistency and complementarity.
4.6 The Met Office has at present no direct
engagement with the European Commission in respect of space matters.
However, as a partner in BNSC we are currently involved in developing
the UK approach to the proposed European Strategy for Space. Through
EUMETSAT, we engage with the ESA/EUMETSAT/EC paper on Earth Observation
4.7 As noted at paragraph 3.9, EUMETSAT
is adopting a wider role in respect of climate issues. It remains
to be determined how activities under the new objective will be
funded. The Met Office intends to explore the possible involvement
of the European Commission in defining requirements for and funding
future EUMETSAT Programmes in this area.
4.8 Common interests with other partners
include: development of space strategies, data policy, space frequency
co-ordination and scientific research.
4.9 The Met Office's prime policy objective
in space, as an operational user and a funder of space programmes,
is to achieve affordable supplies of observations from space,
and this means aiming to bring down the cost of space programmes
in relation to their value. This is pursued in a number of areas.
Firstly, the detailed execution of the EUMETSAT programmes is
monitored, and some control of costs is exercised through key
decisions taken by the Council. However, many of these decisions
are taken on a majority vote and we work with other delegations
to achieve as far as possible our preferred outcome. Secondly,
we believe in procurements being undertaken through fully open
competition covering as wide a domain as possible, without artificial
political constraints, and pursue this in developing the procurement
policy of EUMETSAT. This is consistent with the general approach
by BNSC to industrial matters in ESA. We also believe there is
a greater role for the private sector in sharing programme risk.
Thirdly, the global nature of satellite systems offers the opportunity
to encourage a larger number of users and agencies worldwide to
share the burden of cost. We pursue this aim mainly through EUMETSAT,
which belongs to suitable fora such as the Co-ordination Group
for Meteorological Satellites (CGMS) and the Committee on Earth
Observation Satellites (CEOS). BNSC provides a second channel
to interact with CEOS.
5. THE MARKET
FOR EO DATA
5.1 The exploitation of satellite data has
enabled The Met Office to position itself strongly in the market
for weather-related services. The research alluded to above (paragraph
3.11) has contributed to steady improvements to the accuracy of
numerical forecasts made by The Met Office, which is monitored
through Corporate Plan targets, and on which The Met Office depends
for its market share. The continued funding of operational satellite
programmes has ensured the continuity of services at the required
quality level. Thus The Met Office's business activities and resulting
market are not so much driven by Government policy as by the demands
of our customers, in both public and private sectors.
5.2 According to the agreed EUMETSAT data
policy, The Met Office is the Licensing authority for the reception
and use of EUMETSAT digital data in UK, with responsibility for
developing the market for the data in the UK. This is implemented
as part of a data wholesaling operation which covers other data
and forecasting outputs. These data and products are made available
on an equitable basis (see paragraph 7.2 below) to the Commercial
and Business Divisions of The Met Office and to other meteorological
service providers in the private sector. The NMSs of the other
EUMETSAT Member States have the same licensing responsibility
in their countries, and any business with private and governmental
customers in non-Member States is carried out directly by EUMETSAT.
5.3 We perceive the largest market for EUMETSAT
data, beyond the NMSs, to be with Broadcasters, either directly
or through meteorological service providers, but we expect the
market to remain more or less at current levels. We have seen
the market mature fairly quickly but as a result there is limited
prospect for significant growth in the number of users.
5.4 The discussion so far has related to
the digital data available from EUMETSAT, which can be received
directly by users under licence and further processed to add value.
These data are mostly encrypted and a decryption key is provided
to licensees. In addition, a free analogue transmission analogous
to facsimile (called "WEFAX") is available from Meteosat,
which provides satellite images processed to include labels and
geographical backgrounds. These are not suitable for further processing,
but WEFAX does provide updates as frequently as half-hourly on
the progress and development of weather systems. The availability
of WEFAX has in some cases discouraged some private sector users
from paying for the digital data stream. Also, according to the
provisions of a WMO Resolution, images at six-hourly intervals
are classified as essential data and must be available unencrypted
and free of charge to the entire user community. There are a number
of Internet sites world-wide that make essential images available
and some providers pay for a Broadcaster licence which entitles
them to put more commercially useful data on their sites. This
relatively wide availability has contributed to limit the commercial
5.5 It has been decided that the WEFAX service
will not be continued on Meteosat Second Generation satellites,
but will be replaced by an Internet service providing a similar
quality of data, ie taking no advantage of the second generation
enhancements. It is hoped that this will encourage private sector
commercial users to take a digital data service.
5.6 As regards data from ESA satellites,
The Met Office has free access under the provisions of ERS data
policy to the data mentioned above (paragraph 3.11), for operational
use and mostly in near real time. This kind of data is a useful
supplement to the essential data we receive from EUMETSAT Programmes.
However, the main thrust of the EO market arising from ESA and
other satellites is in the area of high-resolution land imagery
with resolutions of less than 100 metres. For the purposes of
meteorology, little is to be gained from resolutions higher than
about 1 kilometre. We are therefore somewhat on the edge of the
main EO market. Nevertheless we are pleased to see initiatives
from the private sector, such as GANDER, which if implemented
would provide operational data relating to the state of the sea.
We are prepared to examine such proposals and if appropriate to
evaluate the data in terms of costs and benefits for our purposes.
6. FUNDING ARRANGEMENTS
6.1 The funding of the missions of interest
is approached in a number of ways: most of them collaborative.
6.2 The UK share of EUMETSAT's programmes
and infrastructure costs is funded by The Met Office (before trading
fund status by an MOD vote) on a mandatory GNP/GNI
basis alongside the contributions of all the other 16 Member States
of EUMETSAT. The rate of contribution of the UK on this basis,
for calendar year 2000, is 13.51 per cent, making UK the third
largest contributor behind Germany (25.25 per cent) and France
(16.58 per cent). In FY 2000-01, the spend is budgeted at £13.8
6.3 The Met Office has collaborated with
operational programmes of NOAA (USA) since 1978 through funding
of two series of instruments for flight on NOAA spacecraft. A
recent estimate shows that the latter series (the AMSU-B programme)
cost a total of £22 million over the period 1988-99.
6.4 The costs of supporting activities and
infrastructure within The Met Office in order to make best use
of the data and to support the AMSU-B instrument are estimated
at a further £2 million per annum.
6.5 The R&D programmes and missions
of ESA have not been funded directly by The Met Office, in accordance
with the "lead agency" arrangements agreed by government
in 1991; however scientists of The Met Office have in some cases
been active as Principal Investigators to particular ESA missions
including ERS-1 and ERS-2 and have helped to realise the benefit
of some ESA missions as a result. In the case of the METOP-1 Programme
of ESA, MOD agreed to fund part of the UK contribution, and for
administrative reasons The Met Office acts as a channel for this
funding, as a service to MOD. The R&D for the MSG and METOP
satellites is being carried out by ESA, through parallel programmes
(METOP-1 and MSG-1 respectively) to which EUMETSAT has contributed
out of its own programme envelopes and which are therefore indirectly
part-funded by The Met Office.
7. CHARGING ARRANGEMENTS
7.1 The size of the UK contribution to EUMETSAT
varies from year to year as the various programme activities grow
and subside (see paragraph 6.2). The Met Office mostly accounts
such contributions as capital items (the exceptions are minor)
and charges its customers on the basis of depreciation over the
various programme periods.
7.2 According to EUMETSAT Data Charging
Policy, Service Providers, End Users and Broadcasters are charged
for access to the digital data stream from Meteosat. The Commercial
and Business Divisions of The Met Office are Service Providers
in this sense and, under internal charging arrangements devised
to put them on a level playing field with private sector providers,
they are budgeted to pay a total of about £122,000 in FY
2000-01. The private sector is expected to pay an additional £48,000.
75 per cent of these receipts are returned to EUMETSAT.
8.1 The Met Office is content with the present
arrangements for the availability and future development of relevant
data streams from space and with the institutional arrangements
for participating in space policy.
8.2 However, we will continue to seek efficiency
improvements and other means of reducing the cost to us of the
space data we use. We intend to look more closely at the role
of the European Commission with respect to climate issues.
8.3 The Committee is invited to consider
the information provided above.
70 Until 1999, the mandatory scale of national contributions
has been based proportionally on three-year Gross National Product
(GNP) figures supplied by OECD. OECD is discontinuing the supply
of GNP figures in favour of Gross National Income (GNI) and future
scales will be based on this. Back