Monday, July 18, 2016

Tropical Storm and Hurricane Advisories using FTPmail from NWS

In a recent note I explained how to get these crucial Hurricane Advisory reports underway using email request to saildocs. For completeness, we should also look at the primary source for getting the same information directly from the NWS using ftpmail.

I am reminded to do this because I just discovered that there is an excellent presentation of the ftpmail service in the back section of the NWS publication on radio fax schedules (rfax.pdf), and you would not guess that from the title—in fact, you would not guess it from the Table of Contents, either, because it is in Appendix B, and there is no Appendix B in the Contents. Nevertheless, it is there and it is very helpful.

So with this document you not only get the latest HF frequencies and broadcast schedules for conventional HF FAX weather map transmissions, you also get the ftpmail instructions with interactive links, as well as a long list of other marine weather resources.  It appears they have updated this pdf  with regard to the HF schedules and it does have a table of contents for the fax schedules, but not much mention of the FTP mail part at the back.

At one point we made a custom book of these instructions, but they then changed all the links... so we give up on that approach. Best is to just find and use the appendix referenced above.  Note that even though this file has changed a lot over the years, the name has always reminded the same, ie rfax.pdf.  So changes are you can find it from that alone on Google even if they move it once again. OPC has warned us they are changing all links again at the end of Aug, 2017.

This is an important program to know about and test using.  It includes essentially all NWS products, both maps and text—for local waters as well as oceans.  For some graphic map products, saildocs still has the advantage as they reduce them by a factor of 2 before sending, so this is a big factor for sat phone communications.  But saildocs do not offer all the maps that are available, so we need the ftpmail service.  We have made another convenient pdf for getting either the larger size maps from NWS directly or by email request to saildocs for the reduced file size.

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