New economic realities mean a major overhaul is needed in how hydrometeorology is done in Russia

6 august 2015

“Here at the Analytical Center we are for the first time talking about hydrometeorology in Russia and today we are going to look at how weather forecasting is organized in Russia as a system,” said the Deputy Head of the Analytical Center Svetlana Ganeeva, opening the round table on the meteorological system in Russia. The weather forecasting has existed as an industry in Russia for almost 200 years so naturally a lot of experience has been gained in this time. “But science has moved ahead by leaps and bounds as well, so we have seen a lot of changes in source data collection systems and data commercialization. For that reason we need to think about where the industry is going to be moving next,” Ms. Ganeeva believes.

Speaking of ensuring meteorological security in Russia and provision of state services in this sector, the head of the Federal Center for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring of Russia Roman Vilfand said that in the past five years much progress had been made, including some progress in modernizing the Federal Meteorology Center. “Since 2010 quantitative forecasts made by our service for European Russia have become much better than forecasts in other countries,” the export said.  In addition, the Federal Center for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring of Russia got accreditation and joined a pool of 12 meteorological services of the world that issue long-term forecasts on short notice and share information to improve the quality of forecasts.  However, despite all the successes the Federal Center for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring of Russia still faces some problems, with the key problem being reduced financing. “That leads to other problems as well: the best people leave, the accuracy of measurements suffers,” the expert believes. “It is impossible to improve the quality of forecasts when we have to rely on outdated IT infrastructure, we need new more powerful platforms.”

“In recent years the Federal Center for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring of Russia has been scaling back its activities as the amount of subsidies it gets from the state has been getting smaller and smaller. This is creating certain problems for them, but on the other hand, online technologies are evolving and need to be taken into account as well,” believes the CEO of MapMakers Group Ltd. Yuri Shmelkin. The specialist noted that the Federal Center for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring of Russia generates huge amounts of source data that can be used to develop a broad range of products for various industries but the Center cannot just make the information available to everyone.  Trying to meet the demand among companies and households, businesses are developing new products independently. “But commercial organizations do not have access to the source data their products need. For example, we have to buy data from foreign meteorological services,” Mr. Shmelkin noted.

Government must participate in sorting out this situation, believes the CEO of the Federal State Budget Agency Chief Center for Information Technologies and Meteorological Support of Aviation Marina Petrova. “Proper regulations are needed both for the State Meteorological Center and for other market participants,” the expert said. “Existing regulations need to be updated to reflect today’s realities plus the question of organizing access to information should be sorted out as well as the issue of providing secondary products for all players in the meteorological sector.” On the other hand, if the Meteorological Center is required to give businesses free access to its source data, it will not be able to make money by selling this information and the government will have to allocate additional funds to it. New regulations should not only meet the demands of businesses operating in the meteorological sector but also strengthen the national meteorological service.  In any country the national meteorological service must ensure safety of the population, serve the needs of defense, meet the basic needs of the economy and serve as the backbone that businesses can rely on in providing their services, the expert believes.