Also Known As: Binary Universal Form for the Representation of Meteorological Data

Type Various
Colors NA
Compression Uncompressed
Maximum Image Size NA
Multiple Images Per File NA
Numerical Format Binary bit-oriented
Originator World Meteorological Organization
Platform All
Supporting Applications Unknown
See Also GRIB

Designed to convey meteorological data, it can be used for any other kind of data.

The BUFR format is outside the scope of this book, but we include a brief description because it is likely to be more useful in the future as interest in geographical information systems increases.

Vendor specifications are available for this format.

BUFR (Binary Universal Form for the Representation of Meteorological Data) was created by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Technically it is known as WMO Code Form FM 94-IX Ext. BUFR. It is the result of a committee, which produced the first BUFR documents in 1988. The current revision of the format, Version 2, dates from 1991. Work on the format is ongoing. It is a code in the sense that it defines a protocol for the transmission of quantitative data, one of a number of codes created by the WMO.

File Organization
File Details
For Further Information

BUFR was designed to convey generalized meteorological data, but due to its flexibility it can be used for almost anything. BUFR files, in fact, were designed to be infinitely extensible, and to this end are written in a unique data description language.

We've included BUFR in this book because it can and has been used for transmission and exchange of graphics data, although that is not its primary purpose. It also is associated with observational data obtained from weather satellites.

BUFR data streams and files adhere to the specification called WMO Standard Formats for Weather Data Exchange Among Automated Weather Information Systems.

File Organization

BUFR files are stream-based and consist of a number of consecutive records. The format documentation describes BUFR records as self-descriptive. Records, or messages, make up the BUFR data stream, and each always contains a table consisting of a complete description of the data contained in the record, including data type identification, units, scaling, compression, and bits per data item.

File Details

Detailing the data definition language implemented in BUFR is beyond the scope of this article. It is extremely complex and is, at this point, used in a narrow area of technology.

For Further Information

For detailed information about BUFR, see the summary description included on the CD:

Thorpe, W., "Guide to the WMO Code Form FM 94-IX EXT. BUFR," Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center, Monterey, California.

Although there are a number of documents on BUFR available from meteorological sources, this article is the most useful that we have found. Additional information about WMO data specifications can be found in the following official specification:

Standard Formats for Weather Data Exchange Among Automated Weather Information Systems, Document Number FCM-S2-1990.

This document is available from:

U.S. Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA)
Attn: Ms. Lena Loman
Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services
and Supporting Research (OFCM)
6010 Executive Blvd, Suite 900
Rockville, MD 20852
Voice: 301-443-8704

For further information about the BUFR format, contact:

U.S. Department of Commerce/National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA)
Attn: Dr. John D. Stackpole
Chief, Production Management Branch, Automation Division
National Meteorological Center
WINMC42, Room 307, WWB
5200 Auth Road
Camp Springs, MD 20746
Voice: 301-763-8115
FAX: 301-763-8381
Email: jstack@sun1.wwb.noaa.gov

You can get online information about BUFR at:


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