The METAR code is an international vocabulary, message format, and semantic standard for encoding surface weather observations. Vocabulary elements in METAR include codes for existing weather stations, units of measurement, cloud cover and type, and types of precipitation.

The World Meteorological Organization created and maintains METAR. The Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research created a U.S. implementation of METAR, a description of which appears in Federal Meteorological Handbook Number 1 (Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorological Services and Supporting Research, 1995). The first version of this handbook appeared in 1995. No license fee is necessary to use METAR.

If you are incorporating weather data into a biosurveillance system, you should know about METAR. One of the most widely available, free sources of weather data is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which encodes weather data by using METAR. We discussed meteorological data in Chapter 19.

4.2. "Grammar" (Message Format) Standards

A standard message format, similar to the grammar of a human language, specifies the position of vocabulary elements in longer texts (also referred to as "messages"). A message format also specifies a set of characters, called delimiters, analogous to punctuation marks and blank spaces in English, that separate individual vocabulary items or groups of vocabulary items. Table 32.4 lists standard message formats that are relevant to biosurveillance.

4.2.1. HL7 Clinical Messaging Standards

HL7 is a standard message format used in health care. It is a widely recognized standard, and almost every company that

table 3 2.4 Message Format Standards for Biosurveillance

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