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National Weather Service policy supports XML

Now that the National Weather Service policy supports XML, getting forcast information is easier than ever.

You know that XML really is taking over the mundane, everyday world when it turns out that the National Weather Service starts distributing weather and climate information, forecasts, and even alerts and warnings using XML for public delivery. As a consequence of publishing its final version of a document entitled "Policy on Partnerships in the Provision of Environmental Information" on December 1, 2004 the National Weather Service (an arm of NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration) and conforming to the US Government's OMB Circular A-130 "Management of Federal Information Resources," all future such information will use XML markup as part for its delivery format.

In the past, the NOAA had used poorly-documented and poorly-understood "community-unique data formats" to distribute such information. This made it difficult for those not already familiar with or well-versed in these formats to build code to process them and use the data in meaningful ways. The switch to XML will make it much easier for just about anybody to grab and use NOAA weather data, be it for running text bars at the bottom of a TV screen or for text-to-speech translation for radio broadcasts.

The National Weather Service now offers forecast data that conforms to the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) Extensible Markup Language, itself based on XML. This markup permits other computers to access XML-based forecast data directly from the Internet, using SOAP (itself another XML application) to transport the data.

The NDFD markup language is formally called the Digital Weather Markup Language (DWML) and is defined in a formal XML Schema. The specification includes a copy of that schema, along with a detailed description of DWML's syntax and semantics. For those seeking ways to integrate weather forecasts into applications and systems, here's a new, standards-based ticket to success.

Ed Tittel is a regular contributor to numerous TechTarget.com Web sites, and real markup junkie with a taste for interesting XML applications. He's also written several books on XML.

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