Another important part of the NWS Marine program in collecting data is the Port Meteorological Office. The Port Meteorological Office is staffed by one person, the Port Meteorological Officer (PMO), for the purposes of coordinating the Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) Program in the Houston/Galveston area. Actual ports served by the PMO Houston are Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Freeport, Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange. The primary purpose of the VOS program is to get ships at sea to take weather observations voluntarily.
The reason weather observations are needed at sea is to provide the forecasters with the data to accurately forecast the weather over the oceans. Without these data from ships, the forecaster would not know how hard the wind was blowing or the how high the seas were in a particular area. Satellite photos give the forecaster an overview of the weather, but without the observations from ships the forecasts would not be very reliable.
Some of the primary products produced from the weather observations received are weather maps which can give the forecaster a multi-dimensional picture of what is occurring in the atmosphere. One of the most important aspects of these weather maps for the seaman is the weather facsimile broadcast. By transmitting over the air, a portion of these weather maps, a seaman can see what is happening now and what will happen in the short term (24 to 72 Hours).
The U.S. Coast Guard maintains 3 weather facsimile broadcasts in the contiguous continental United States. The broadcast for the North Atlantic is transmitted from BOSTON, MA, and covers the North Atlantic ocean from North America to Europe. This broadcast originates from the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in Camp Springs, MD.
The broadcast which covers the southern United States, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean is broadcast from NEW ORLEANS, LA. This broadcast is basically a tropical weather broadcast and originates from the National Hurricane Center.
The broadcast which covers from the west coast of the United States to about 135E longitude and is broadcast from POINT REYES, CA (San Francisco). This broadcast originates from NCEP.
We have now added the broadcast transmission schedules for HONOLULU, HI and KODIAK, AK!!
In addition to the above duties, the Houston PMO also works within the framework of the Shipboard Environmental (Data) Acquisitions System (SEAS) program. The SEAS program provides Meteorological and Oceanographic data to the database with special transmissions of data through satellites. These data are collected through special communications downlinks from the NOAA satellite to Wallops Island, VA, and from INMARSAT satellites to COMSAT receiving stations in New York and California. These data are then forwarded to NCEP, for processing on the Cray supercomputers and further dissemination throughout the world.
Also in the processing loop is the Upper Ocean Thermal (UOT) Center in Miami, FL, which is involved on ocean research using oceanographic data to further understand the influence the oceans have on the atmosphere.