09 July 2012

Weather vessels

The weather ship MS Polarfront at sea.
A weather ship was a ship stationed in the ocean as a platform for surface and upper air meteorological observations for use in weather forecasting. Surface weather observations were taken hourly, and four radiosonde releases occurred daily.[52] It was also meant to aid in search and rescue operations and to support transatlantic flights.[52][53] Proposed as early as 1927 by the aviation community,[54] the establishment of weather ships proved to be so useful during World War II that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) established a global network of weather ships in 1948, with 13 to be supplied by the United States.[53] This number was eventually negotiated down to nine.[55]
Their crews were normally out to sea for three weeks at a time, returning to port for 10 day stretches.[52] Weather ship observations proved to be helpful in wind and wave studies, as they did not avoid weather systems like other ships tended to for safety reasons.[56] They were also helpful in monitoring storms at sea, such as tropical cyclones.[57] The removal of a weather ship became a negative factor in forecasts leading up to the Great Storm of 1987.[58] Beginning in the 1970s, their role became largely superseded by weather buoys due to the ships' significant cost.[59] The agreement of the use of weather ships by the international community ended in 1990. The last weather ship was Polarfront, known as weather station M ("Mike"), which was put out of operation on 1 January 2010. Weather observations from ships continue from a fleet of voluntary merchant vessels in routine commercial operation.

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