Radiofax: NMF Boston, Massachusetts (National Weather Service/NOAA, USA)

Another radiofax posting to round out my Sunday and what a surprise – it’s another NWS/NOAA family station. NMF broadcasts from Boston, Massachusetts in the USA operating on three of four frequencies at any time. Like other NWS/NOAA network stations, there are a significant number of charts on offer with many rebroadcasts, making the station fairly active on the air.

To catch this station, I used the resources of Penn State University and WA2ZKD’s KiwiSDRs – unfortunately, due to a misconfiguration, the charts are all slightly slanted. However, as this is only relatively minor, I decided it was better to just publish the collected images than to tie up more KiwiSDR time and precious LTE quota in attempting to receive a new batch.

As usual, faxes presented represent a snapshot in time and are not kept up to date. None of the presented charts should be used for navigation purposes. Copyright in the faxed material belongs to the transmitting agency, the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States of America. Faxes are reproduced for documentary purposes as an illustration of the technical characteristics of the fax transmission, formatting of the faxed content and as proof of station activity, propagation and reception at the times and dates stated within. Up to date charts can be downloaded from http://tgftp.nws.noaa.gov/fax/marine.shtml

Faxes

Faxes presented were received in the period between 19th-21st January 2019 using a combination of Penn State University and WA2ZKD’s KiwiSDR. Owing to the most favourable propagation being for the 6304.5kHz frequency, all featured charts were received on this frequency. The slanting is mainly due to not having any applied slant correction (due to not having modified my kiwifax.py to account for it), relying mainly on the KiwiSDR’s GPS-disciplined clock. While in a perfect world, we would have perfect synchronization, it is common for transmitters to be slightly offset in one direction or another but “stably” so. As with other NWS/NOAA-family stations that issue a good number of charts, the charts will be broken up into categories for easier viewing.

System Related Charts

As with other NWS/NOAA family faxes, the “test chart” includes a CQ call from NMF inclusive of the NOAA and National Coast Guard logos. There are black margins in the image area, with data dots encoded in the first few image lines, consistent with the rest of the family. The above example received 0745UTC on 21st January 2019.

Under some conditions, a “chart not available” fax is sent – this is an example of one sent at 1028UTC on 21st January 2019 in place of cyclone danger/high wind/waves chart.

The schedule is sent as two short form charts. The first part shown above was received 0243UTC on 21st January 2019 and shows evidence of being manipulated as an image to add the “EFFECTIVE September 19, 2018” text, resulting in the other text looking soft.

The second part is transmitted straight after, received 0254UTC which has the nonspaced text sharply overlaid where the previous schedule may have been.

Request for comments was received 0305UTC with a few messy alterations, dated 24th October 2016.

A product notice bulletin is also sent once a day at 1443UTC, this received 19th January 2019 indicating the inclusion of 72-hour forecast products.

Satellite Images, Ice Charts and Warnings

Two different satellite images are available from NMF including the above covering area 6 (EQ-60N, 40W-130W), received 0951UTC on 21st January 2019. The image uses greyscale capabilities and is flanked only at the bottom by a black bar.

The other satellite image available is that covering area 5 (20N-55N, 55W-95W) which has black bars top and bottom. The above example was received at 0351UTC on 21st January 2019.

An ice chart is provided from the North American Ice Service (NAIS). The formatting looks very similar to that of the charts from the Canadian service, but sent “sideways”. There is a link to a Canadian website included as well. The above chart received 0438UTC on 21st January 2019.

A 48-Hour High Wind and Seas Graphic is sent whenever such events are likely to occur. This was received at 0452UTC on 21st January 2019.

Surface Analysis and Forecasts

At 0233UTC, a preliminary surface analysis is transmitted (this example from 21st January 2019). The formatting of this is slightly different to regular NWS/NOAA graphics in that a number of thin lines and fine detail exist, and no logo or “square boxes” are overlaid.

The more traditional surface analysis products, Part 1 covering the North-East Atlantic was received at 0352UTC on 20th January 2019.

This is followed by another chart for the North-West Atlantic at 0338UTC. Both charts are designed to be read rotated.

The 24 hour surface forecast is sent in the natural orientation, this example received 1810UTC on 20th January 2019.

The 48-hour surface forecast follows similar formatting but with bolder lines and wider image, covering a different area. There appears to be no 36-hour product. Received 1955UTC.

The 72-hour version received 2045UTC.

The 96-hour version received 1915UTC, following the same conventions.

500mb Analysis and Forecast

A full complement of 500mb analysis and forecast products following the same conventions are broadcast. The first chart is a 00-hour forecast, or otherwise, an analysis, received 0428UTC on 21st January 2019.

The above is the 24-hour 500mb forecast, received 0825UTC.

This example of a 36-hour 500mb forecast was received at 1905UTC on 20th January 2019.

Above is a 48-hour 500mb forecast received 2015UTC.

The 72-hour version was received 2105UTC.

Finally, the 96-hour version was received at 1935UTC.

Wind/Wave Analysis and Forecasts

A Wind/Wave Analysis in Feet was received 0315UTC on 20th January 2019. This has thinner lines than many charts but otherwise follows similar conventions.

Sea State Analysis was received 1759UTC with bold lines and filling nearly the entire width of the chart.

The 24-hour Wind & Wave Forecast follows the “thin line” grid convention, received 1835UTC. This analysis is provided in feet.

The 48-hour version is a “thick line” grid chart, received 2005UTC but with units of meters.

The 72-hour version was received at 2055UTC following the same conventions and meter units.

The 96-hour chart was received 1925UTC.

Wave period and direction forecast products are available for 48-hour, received 2025UTC.

As well as 72-hour, received 2115UTC.

And finally, in a 96-hour version received 1945UTC.

Conclusion

While the NWS/NOAA family stations are all inter-related, sharing identical transmission characteristics, the mix of charts available from each station differs to focus on the area they are designed to cover. Despite this, many of the charts are of an easily recognisable “short” form format with clear logos, thick lines, black image margins and data-dots in the top-left image area – NMF is no exception to this. The reward for tuning in, however, is being able to see the charts that do differ – for example, the North American Ice Service chart that bears similarity to the Canadian one, but sent sideways, which I wasn’t otherwise able to see.

Despite going to all this effort, there are still more stations to cover, including NMG (New Orleans, Louisiana), HLL2 (Seoul, South Korea) which I know are still active and just need to sort the images out. VMC/VMW (Australia) is currently suffering from a transmission fault and will be featured once it comes back to health.

That being said, I’m still on the hunt for some of the more rarely heard stations which I’m not certain about – do leave me any tips if you have any sightings of ZSJ (Cape Naval, South Africa), PWZ-33 (Rio De Janeiro, Brazil), VFF/VFR/VFA (Canada, believed to be out-of-season). There are also other stations which I have never heard but will put more efforts towards finding: Argentina (LSB), Chile (CAN 6D), Denmark (OXT), India (ATP – known inoperative), Kenya (5YE), Senegal (6VU), Uzbekistan (RTH), Beijing (BDF2/XSG), Japan (JFC), Pevek (Chukotka Peninsula) and Brazil (PPO Onlida Radio). I received a tip-off from Vitor from a previous post about the whereabouts of RBW 41, so I hope to be able to catch them at long last.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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