The Met Office maintains a fleet of around 350 Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) on which the crew make weather observations. These observations are made in support of the International Maritime Organization’s SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) Convention and are carried out under the WMO VOS programme. Within Europe VOS operations are co-ordinated through the EUCOS Surface Marine programme (E-Surfmar).
Observations from ships are usually made every three to six hours, while at sea. About 20% of the UK’s ship observations are from the North Atlantic, with the rest further afield.
In recent years we have started to introduce Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) on ships, as a supplement to the manual observations. These have the advantage that observations of the basic parameters (temperature, pressure, humidity, wind) are reported more frequently (hourly). We currently have more than 10 AWS systems operating on board ferries and ships.
Around 70 vessels from the UK fleet also contribute to the VOS Climate project (VOSClim), a subset of the VOS fleet reporting to higher standards for climate applications.
The Met Office also acts as one of two Global Collecting Centres (GCC) (alongside the German Met. Service DWD) for VOS data, with responsibility for basic quality control of ship data, and collection of those data not available in real-time (e.g. ship’s logbooks). As part of its role as a real-time monitoring centre for marine data the Met Office routinely monitors VOS data.
We also receive data from around 50 fixed offshore platforms and rigs operating in UK waters (mostly in the North Sea), these provide observations in a similar fashion to the VOS.
Produced daily around 0730 UTC.