Tailored forecast on tap

This article has photo gallery Published on CPL Max Bree (author), LSIS Helen Frank (photographer)

Royal Australian Navy Meteorologist, Lieutenant Christie Underwood fills a weather balloon with helium onboard HMAS Canberra during Operation Fiji Assist.  (photo: LSIS Helen Frank)
Royal Australian Navy Meteorologist, Lieutenant Christie Underwood fills a weather balloon with helium onboard HMAS Canberra during Operation Fiji Assist.

Using a weather app on your phone might be a great way to see if the family picnic will be rained out, but they’re not the best for navigating a ship or planning an exercise.
Despite the nice interfaces and easy access of an app, users should be aware they are geared towards a particular industry or broad public information, according to Lieutenant Alison Osborne of Meteorological Operations at Headquarters Joint Operations Command.
“Forecasting products provided by windfinder.com and coastalwatch.com cater to recreational activities including surfing, windsurfing or other near-shore recreational activities,” she said.
“While the data may not necessarily be inaccurate, the information is presented for that specific use only and does not provide operationally specific advice or information.”
Even the Bureau of Meteorology’s public weather information, including maritime forecasting, has the disclaimer that it is 'not a substitute for independent professional advice'.
Lieutenant Osborne said "some weather sites waived liability, or indicated information was not for maritime navigation or emergencies such as cyclones, severe thunderstorms and floods."
“In the fine print the inherent risk of using this information is apparent; it is likely to be correct but cannot replace official weather information and warnings,” she said.
The Bureau recently released more detailed information to the public, including Himawari-8 Satellite Data and the MetEye at www.bom.gov.au/australia/meteye.
“It provides up-to-date details for wind, sea and currents and is manually manipulated by forecasters, thus more local knowledge is imparted in these graphics and they are of a reputable source,” Lieutenant Osborne said.
For specific information in the Australian meteorological area, Australian Defence Force units can request support from the team at Headquarters Joint Operations Command.
Meteorological Operations provides tailored forecasts for specific activities such as independent passage and exercises or operations. They also offer up-to-date severe weather advice specific to units at sea, including navigation in proximity to tropical cyclones and tsunami warnings.
Navy’s Meteorological Operations team gathers forecasting information and operates the same programs and models as the Bureau. Maritime geospatial officers all undergo extensive postgraduate courses and military meteorological training.

They are World Meteorological Organisation certified weather forecasters catering exclusively to the Navy.
Meteorological Operations at the joint command is a 24-hour manned desk which responds promptly to any information request, including:

  • Daily route and area forecasts.
  • Advice on systems, dangerous winds and swell to units in the Southern Ocean or Great Australian Bight to aid navigation planning.
  • Monsoon onset in the tropics including ‘nowcasting’ to any unit operating within the tropics for likely thunderstorm activity or wind surges. It also maintains a close eye on units operating in these conditions.
  • Tropical cyclone overlays are automatically distributed to units within 150nm of a tropical cyclone watch or warning zone. Units outside this margin are provided track maps on request.
  • Specific near-shore forecasts.