Chilean Navy Hosts Conference of Military Meteorologists
By Dialogo September 10, 2015Good for our Navy, always at the forefront of everything having to do with serving their country and scientific advances. We acknowledge this and are grateful. excellent; marvelous: as always our Chilean Navy is at the forefront. My congratulations.-
Meteorological authorities from countries in the Americas and throughout the world agreed to recruit more Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) as the result of a recent conference hosted in the Chilean city of Viña del Mar by the country's Navy.
There, the Fifth International Workshop of Port Meteorological Officers (PMO), held by the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), convened from July 20-24 with participants from more than 20 countries.
“[The workshop] allowed for an exchange of experiences, which will undoubtedly enrich the ongoing work carried out by the Navy through the National Program of Voluntary Observing Ships, contributing to the mission of making the seas safer, cleaner, and better understood spaces,” said Navy Commander Luis Vidal Lema, head of the Chilean Navy’s Meteorological Service.
His counterparts from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Switzerland, South Africa, the Netherlands, the United States, Chile, China, England, Kenya, Australia, the Bahamas, Thailand, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Venezuela, and Spain attended the workshop, which focused on PMO training and improving data collection. This effort advanced in pursuit of the WMO's broader agenda, which aims to create conditions to improve the collection of meteorological and oceanographic information to allow for safe maritime navigation by the armed forces, as well as civil navigation, anywhere in the world.
“We conducted this workshop in Chile because it is a maritime country responsible for the meteorological area off of its coasts and because of the direct link between the Meteorological Service of the Navy and the activities related to the WMO, particularly its Joint Committee on Oceanography and Marine Meteorology,” said Edgar Cabrera, head of the WMO Office for Ocean Affairs and Marine Meteorology.
The VOS Program, as its name suggests, recruits volunteer ships to conduct measurements (observations) when navigating off the coast of their country of origin or in international waters. The data collected by each vessel is regularly sent to the WMO’s Global Telecommunications System (GTS), the Canadian Ministry of the Environment's Meteorological Service, and the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), through satellite-enabled email.
“The availability of this maritime meteorological information is useful for synoptic surface analysis, helping to improve the reliability of maritime weather reports, weather warnings, and weather charts predicting atmospheric pressure, wind, and waves,” Cmdr. Vidal explained. “The key to this task is international collaboration. We have gradually been adding new countries.”
Currently, there are 4,046 vessels from 29 countries participating in the VOS program; the U.S. has the lead with 2,280 ships, followed by Germany (691), France (218), Japan (127), England (118), and Australia (96). In some countries, the PMO are meteorological technicians who are all proficient in English. However, in countries where marine meteorological services are part of the Armed Forces, the PMO’s activities are performed by a meteorological Navy officer, such as in Chile.
The PMO are responsible for recruiting volunteer ships of any nationality, requesting their participation in the program and training the staff on board how to use the measurement system. Moreover, they provide the vessels with access to weather information for proper navigation and offer maintenance and calibration services for the measuring instruments.
Those instruments are key to the program's data collection efforts. They're performed with the instruments that each vessel uses to navigate (anemometer, barometer, and thermometer), so further implementations must be carried out. Every three to six hours the vessels register a log with the following information:
Vessel name or call sign;
Position (latitude and longitude);
Wind direction and intensity (in knots);
Wave height in meters;
Significant present weather (rain, snow, fog, etc.).
This information goes into the worldwide meteorological services database, allowing for the prediction of meteorological and oceanographic conditions for worldwide navigation.
The buoy system is another form of data collection, but without the intervention of any vessel personnel. The buoys are installed on board the vessels and operate autonomously with solar panels, collecting data as the ship sails and compiling and sending information in real time via satellite to the corresponding services.
From the methodology of observation to prediction
To coordinate the meteorological monitoring through the VOS program, the WMO defined 23 areas of maritime observation, called METAREA, and delegated global responsibility to 17 countries for one or more of these areas.
The area of the South Pacific Ocean is the maritime space with the least amount of data available to feed the system and improve weather and climate forecasting models, according to the WMO report. Currently, only three countries in South America are responsible for preparing meteorological reports off their coasts:
Argentina (METAREA VI), through the National Weather Service;
Brazil (METAREA V), through the Maritime Meteorological Service of the Brazilian Navy; and
Chile (METAREA XV), through the Meteorological Service of the Chilean Navy.
Colombia, Ecuador, and Argentina, whose delegations were trained during the workshop in Chile on how to implement the PMO position in their respective countries, may also join the program by the end of the year.
Currently, the maritime forecasts for other METAREAs along the South American coast are handled by the United States’ National Weather Service. All of the weather information generated at the local and global levels is freely available; specific data is routinely protected only in some cases. For example, when vessels are operating in areas under the threat of piracy, the data is delivered once the ship reaches its destination and not during the course of its navigation. The same is true when it comes to warships, which must not disclose their positions for security reasons.
“The WMO is a unique program in the world that collects data at sea in real and deferred time,” Cmdr. Vidal explained. “There are some scientific research programs that perform data collection at sea, but for purposes of research studies, not for operational purposes, as in this case (to feed and improve the performance of numerical forecast models).”
Chilean national program
METAREA XV, for which Chile is responsible, covers an area of 24 million square kilometers in the South Pacific.
To monitor the surface of the sea, the Chilean Navy’s National Program of Voluntary Observing Ships has five boats: the frigate Admiral Lynch, from the Valparaiso Maritime Governance Meteorological Center; the barge LSHD Sargento Aldea, dedicated to transporting personnel and carrying out humanitarian support tasks; the ship Achilles, and the icebreaker Almirante Óscar Viel, both naval vessels that conduct Antarctic campaigns during the summer seasons and cover the extensive coast of Chile. The program also includes the training ship Esmeralda, which also travels internationally during its training missions.
The figure of the PMO was initiated by the Chilean Navy in 2012 at the Maritime Meteorological Centers in Valparaiso, Talcahuano, Puerto Montt, and Punta Arenas; while in 2013 it was established at the Meteorological Center in Iquique. The next workshop will be held in four years in a host country that will be determined in 2016, during the annual meeting of the Ship Observations Team (SOT) from the WMO’s Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology.