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Geosciences in OGC: 2010 Update

posted Jul 17, 2012, 2:13 AM by David Arctur   [ updated Jul 17, 2012, 2:14 AM ]
Posted in OGC News, December 2010, as This Month's Staff Message -- some more of the history of geosciences' emergence in OGC. This unintentionally left out mention of the very significant role of Australia's CSIRO researchers' contributions toward the formation of the Hydro DWG and WaterML.    

Whenever a large office building is being constructed, it seems like a long time goes by at first, with very little visible progress. The foundation and infrastructure are often below ground level and behind a fence, making it even harder to see progress. But once the walls start to go up, every day brings dramatic changes.

We seem to have reached the "wall building" stage now, regarding OGC standards in the geosciences. It was just 2 years ago, after 16 years of work within OGC on the core standards for mapping and sensor observations, that we first talked with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) about letting us help shape their future standards. At the ‘First workshop on use of GIS/OGC standards in meteorology' OGC and WMO both realized that many members of the meteorology community were using OGC WMS, WCS, and WFS standards in interesting ways, but different than we expected, and not all the same, handling some concepts that were new for us, such as forecast time and mapping of weather variables like temperature and pressure. The workshop, organized by the UK Met Office, the European Centre for Mid to Long Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), and Météo France, was a first attempt to determine best practices for using and extending OGC standards in European meteorology.

Similarly in the hydrology field, the US-based Consortium for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI) had been working for 8 years to evolve a service-oriented architecture for cataloguing time-series observations from the millions of stream gauges in the US maintained by USGS, EPA, NOAA's National Weather Service, and various state agencies. As this system was coming online and being adopted within USGS and NWS, CUAHSI realized that OGC could help ensure global application of the architecture. They started working with us to adapt their initial customized SOA to OGC standards, which turned out to be a good fit. But they realized the need to draw in more hydrology domain scientists, so CUAHSI sent OGC to the WMO Commission for Hydrology (CHy) meeting in Geneva, just a couple weeks before the first meteorology workshop, to see what we could develop.

From the serendipity of these two meetings being co-located with meetings of the WMO's key domains grew a commitment between OGC and WMO, formalized a year later, to support each other's standards program through designated experts chairing the relevant working groups in both organizations. This goes beyond meteorology and hydrology to include climate, oceanography, and atmospheric science commissions within WMO. This ensures that WMO retains intellectual control of the domain sciences of concern to them within OGC, while taking advantage of OGC's strengths in convening interdisciplinary collaborative meetings four times a year, around the world.

Steven Ramage and I recently attended the ‘Third workshop on use of GIS/OGC standards in meteorology' hosted by the UK Met Office at their facilities in Exeter, co-sponsored again by ECMWF and Météo France. The meeting was attended by experts representing national agencies in weather, climate, aviation, and defence from Europe and now North America. This year, OGC members on the European INSPIRE Thematic Working Group on Atmospheric Conditions and Meteorological Geographic Features are planning to implement the INSPIRE requirements for a limited part of the complete information model, through an OGC Interoperability Experiment.   

Still another thread of geosciences outreach for OGC is our participation in the annual conferences of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco each fall, and the European Geophysical Union (EGU) in Vienna each spring. We have chaired sessions at these conferences since 2008 within a newly created domain section of both called Earth and Space Science Informatics (ESSI). At the AGU meeting just held, we saw that OGC standards and practices are being included in the core architectures of important new NSF-funded observation networks and archives, such as DataONE.org and IEDAData.org. We also see new areas we need to work with, such as provenance automation and integrated modeling frameworks. As an indication of growing recognition of the role we can play in fostering interdisciplinary collaborations of domain scientists and cyber-infrastructure developers, we have been asked to be a sponsor at ESSI's future meetings and to contribute to its publications. The future for geosciences in the OGC is bright!

On behalf of everyone on the OGC staff, I thank you for your support in 2010 and wish you all a very happy and successful 2011!

--David Arctur
Director, Interoperability Programs