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What Is A GRIB File?

Most simply, GRIB stands for Gridded Information in Binary Form.

What does that mean?

GRIB is a code form used by meteorological centers for storing and exchanging meteorological charts and other patterns of wind, sea state, temperature, etc. In other words, GRIB files are computer generated forecast files. The forecast information is put into a compressed digital, binary format.

Why is that important?

The format results in files that can be sent as text attachments to emails. This means they can efficiently be sent either through HF radio e-mail systems, or through satellite phone Internet connections at a reasonable speed and cost.

Who develops the data?

There are two forecasting models that result in GRIB files both developed by NOAA: The wwave3 (sometimes referred to as WW3, Wave Watch 3, and MMAB Operational Wave Model) and GFS (Global Forecasting System).

Do I need any additional software to view GRIB files?

Yes, a GRIB viewer is required to convert the information into a conventional map format with coastlines and latitude/ longitude grids. Xaxero's WindPlot is a GRIB viewer.

Why would I need GRIB data, if I can receive weatherfax?

As Chris Parker states in his book Coastal and Offshore Weather, the Essential Handbook: "[GRIB Files] offer 25 times the resolution of NOAA's weather fax products in a crystal-clear, easy-to-interpret image. Plus, the data is commonly available in intervals of 12 hours or less, meaning that a 5-day forecast would offer 10 individual forecast maps at 12-hour intervals. Compare that to the single valid time of the NOAA fax product and the GRIB gives you 10 times the number of forecast periods"

How do I get the GRIB files and how much does it cost?

Most products are ordered via email. The required format of the email request for a document depends on what source you use. Many products are available at no charge from Global Marine Networks (GMN) and Saildocs. For more information and alternative sources for GRIB data, visit our WindPlot page.


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Last modified: 04/09/13