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Marine Weather Observations

Marine weather observations are typically provided by land based or water based platforms.

The land based observation sites are very close to the shore or water body, and in some instances are located at lighthouses or other coastal installations overlooking the sea. These observations can be provided by a human or an automated observing station.

A network of ODAS (Offshore Data Acquisition Systems) buoys are deployed seasonally in a number of the major freshwater inland lakes, as well as year-round in the coastal and offshore areas along the East and West Coasts of Canada. While deployed, the buoys collect and transmit hourly weather and wave data 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Data is transmitted to the GOES satellite (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) then relayed to earth stations where it is entered into the Global Telecommunications System (GTS). The ODAS buoys provide an important source of weather data in data sparse areas of the ocean, and improve the detection and understanding of storms approaching Canada’s East and West Coasts.

In addition to the buoy and land stations, selected ships are equipped with automated observing stations that report weather conditions from wherever the ship is located. This network is known as AVOS (Automated Volunteer Observing Ship), with ships providing hourly reports of weather conditions. The ship’s crew is able to include additional observations of sea state, sky condition, and ice conditions. These observations are included in the weather messages sent from the ship via satellite for dissemination through the Global Telecommunications System (GTS).

Environment Canada also deploys a network of drifting buoys, known as Surface Velocity Drifters. These small buoys are not moored to the ocean’s bottom, and instead move with the surface currents, using a special “sock-like devise known as a  drogue” in order to maintain the speed of the current at a depth of 15 m ). The surface buoys measure sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, and also provide important details on surface currents. Similar to the moored buoy and ship networks, real-time data from the drifting buoys is relayed to users via satellite for distribution to the GTS.

This real-time information is used by forecasters and is also inputted into numerical weather prediction models used in the production of marine forecasts.  They are also used to provide data about the waters off the East and West Coasts, as well as the Arctic waters and the Great Lakes. The buoys, ships and land stations also provide data for climatological records which are used in many research projects and real-life applications, such as offshore construction.