weather ship

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A vessel which occupied a station in the ocean to accumulate weather data for overflying aircraft and passing ships. After the loss of a US airliner in 1938, because of bad weather during a trans-Pacific flight, tests were carried out at sea using instrumented upper-air balloons. When these proved successful the Atlantic Weather Observation Service was inaugurated in 1940 using two US Coast Guard cutters and US Weather Bureau personnel. Once the USA entered the war the service, and the number of transoceanic flights, increased, and by 1945 there were 22 Atlantic and 24 Pacific stations. These were reduced to thirteen, the ships, and the costs, being shared by those nations operating transoceanic aircraft. A ship's station was a 336-kilometre (210-m.) grid of 16-kilometre (10-m.) squares, each being assigned a letter of the alphabet. A ship's position was transmitted by a radio beacon and overflying aircraft were able to contact it to receive the data it required. The ships were also used to obtain data for oceanography and on at least three occasions mounted lifesaving operations to rescue passengers and crew from foundering ships and downed aircraft. Once jet aircraft and satellite weather information arrived in the 1970s, the traditional weather ship quickly became redundant, and the last one (station M) was withdrawn in 1981.

See also marine meteorology.

See also marine meteorology.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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