Plotting scatterometer data in McIdas-V

If you are on  twitter people tend to tag nice scatterometer images with #ASCAT

I am using McIDAS-V 1.4 to plot scatterometer data. I get the data from

So in the McIdas-V data explorer I select as the cataolg (under general),  netCDF as the data sources type and the find my data.

I usually plot ASCAT A or B coastal winds which are found under:

OceanWinds > ascat > preview >  L2 > metop a OR metop b > coastal opt > YYYY > DOY >

(Latest Day of Year will be last)

YYYY is the year e.g. 2014 DOY is the day of the year (Today is 148).

The files end with .nc.gz. The files have the date YYYYMDD and then a time HHMMSS which is the end of the orbit in UTC. so for a place on each you most likely want the orbit that finishes just after 0930 or 2130  local time.

Select your .nc.gz file and “add source” .

You may have done all of this via another data source such as EUMETCast.

The coastal winds are a 12.5km product, that get about 12.5km from the coast.  More details on the winds can be found on the KNMI scatterometer page (

You can plot the winds barbs or vectors in a single colour in Mc-V, or plot the wind speeds using a colour table but what if you want coloured wind barbs?

Add a new formula that looks like:


The formula line is:


Now plot the data – select formula and your formula then choose your data twice (once for the wind barbs and then for the colour – most likely wind speed at 10m)

I use a binned colour scale that approximatly matches the Beufort scale my xml is here: The colours are close to the set used by NWS/OPC, warning thresholds are clear and the bins help see structures.

Also under main window > tools > parameters > defaults Tab: User defaults I have a line

ColWindBarbs BeaufortOPC 0.0 – 40.0 m/s

which means that any winds plotted using my formula (which generates ColWindBarbs uses the BeufortOPC colour table with default range 0-40 m/s) – save a few clicks each time.

Here is an example from the Aral sea – the 50knt wind in the centre is most likely a land contamination effect.


Within the ASCAT products there is also backscatter distance or MLE. This is a product of the wind estimation process and high positive values can be related to wind variability.

Here is an example the winds over plotted (from southern indian ocean) with backscatter distance  the winds with high positive MLE are plotted in red.


It’s very nice for surface front positioning.

So that is how I plot data with Mc-Idas-V. If you need help with the actual data here is a good place to start and there is always for help from the EUMETSAT helpdesk.







ETR Publications

ETR Publications

Here are the education and training publications from WMO

Voici les documents de formation de l’OMM


MOOCs I & beginings #edcmooc

So I just logged on to #edcmooc nice to finally have access to all the material. And my first question “how do I fit in round here, what is the first thing I need to do?”

I haven’t looked round the site much yet – but I wanted to play with that question

This is one question I have that I hope will be answered during the course – on a practical level this is about negotiating the roles of student, teacher, and the world outside (home, work, travel …) – what are helpful ways of going about this orientation? How do I know what do to as a student – is it nicely prescribed, do I have to find out for my self, construct it myself … or with others?

I also notice in my question that what I think about “how do I fit in round here” I am making choices (in and out of awareness) about the sort of “I” that I might want to be.  Some of my peers are taking this course and I have a lot of respect for the Edinburgh group – I don’t what to appear stupid or dumb. There are a couple of other education moocs on at the moment which I am watching, but this is the one I want to contribute to – but the day job carries on so I have to work out when I can take part – in other words me presence  is variable. For the courses I teach I want to be able to help students take part in the courses, to be present enough to get what they and their employer need.

Oh and I like reading but don’t get on so well with writing

Ok – now to find out what I need to do …

Trainign ?or?and? Education

I was recently in a meeting that was discussing approaches to training and education in meteorology. At one point we were discussing the difference between training and education. We settled on training as begin something to do with continuing professional development (CPD) and education as initial broader training that probably takes place in university. It was a brief moment in the process that helped us clarify what we wanted to focus on (CPD). These may or may not be separate categories – it was a useful distinction for that piece of work.

It struck me later than one of the key differences in my field between the two contexts is the set of contracting relationships that exist. Within the university setting there are fees, lectures, exams and certificates which form the basis of contracts between student – teacher – university. Sometimes there may also be a sponsor supporting the student to participate  in the course, and maybe a home institute that nominated the student. There is a corresponding set of relationships for a student attending a professional development course, who may also be sponsored by another body. The web of relationships is similar but the nature of relationship may be different.  A university certificate / degree has a particular value that differs from a non certified certificate from a training provider. The training provider may have an agenda such as the use of their data.

Many of the questions I ask myself about learning and teaching are usually about the process of student enlightenment, a friend recently pointed out the changing nature of educational research to be include  more about the nature of the political landscape and contracting as it does affect the nature of education and educational effectiveness.



Lessons from a crypto class

For fun I am taking a Coursera class in Cryptography. I don’t need the content of the course but it’s a fun way to relax. I am also taking the course to experience a digital course as a student, to experience the Coursera platform and to experience the another instructor’s  educational methodology to stimulate thinking on my own.  Taking a technical course is interesting as my own field of instruction (weather from satellites) is technical.

Coursera have a description of their pedagogical foundations. It looks like the core idea is to use good instructional methods with some mastery learning approaches (from Bloom’s 2-sigma problem paper). I wonder if Coursera have statistics to show how much into 2-sigma they get for each course ….

When I signed up I had seen the preview materials so I felt I had something to learn [I did not understand the questions], but would not be out of my depth [despite not understanding the questions it looked ok – and it’s a low risk environment].

The structure / format took a while to get used to. The video lectures were pretty clear and for me had a nice chunk size. in each 10-12 min block there were usually a couple of interactive questions.   What was new was new to me was use of  of forums as the key source of question/ answer and feedback. Questions were answered very quickly by other students, and I answered some questions. Up votes enable people to promote or demote particular answers. Each week block had a particular homework question set, with 4 possibilities to sit the homework. I found some of the homework tough – and for some of the areas I didn’t get the  question feedback was enough to get going, but most of the time the forums were a better place to get some ideas [I.e. I found an expression of my mis-understanding and a corrective feedback that was useful]. The quiz questions required recall of some knowledge by mainly some thinking / working out  and production of a result.   [in my own field I think  we concentrate (too much) on knowledge recall questions]. There was also the optional opportunity to complete a programming assignment each week –  these were relatively straight forward and again guidance was available on the forums.

Work commitments meant I wasn’t able to meet the final deadlines for the homework. So I did not complete the course. Picking up with a future class is an option.

Initially I miss the presence of the instructor in the forums (something about a touchstone of correct and right), we saw the instructor in the recorded lectures. After a while it became clear that the cohort was biog enough and had a enough knowledge within it that I missed the instructor presence less.

I also missed variation in instruction methods – in essence there was only the forums and the video lecture. I think I would have appreciated other asynchronous teaching methods or other ways to get feedback when I had the wrong ideas.