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Old 01-08-2020, 10:47   #46
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

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Originally Posted by MicHughV View Post
and then you get the " herd" instinct.....have been in a few anchorages, where the weather was discussed..and discussed...and discussed...and finally I thought....enuff is enuff...and started making preparations to leave....the other yachties noticed this....and started clearing their decks as well....and as I was leaving...noticed a whole caravan of boats behind me...they seemed to figure..." he must know something we don't"....but I didn't.....I just wasn't rooted in fear that a big bad wave might climb aboard and splash me....
I don't think it is a matter of fear. It's a matter of ignorance. Build skills and capability and make your own decisions. Will you be a duckling or a duck?
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Old 01-08-2020, 10:48   #47
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

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#1 – What can hurt me?

#2 – How do I make the fastest passage?

Bad weather is biggest concern and big cyclonic weather the biggest of those. You listed a number of sources of weather which is incomplete. I’ve used all of those you listed. There is simply no substitute for synoptic charts (weather fax or satellite with deep pockets). Synoptics give you the big picture with tactical detail. You have to know what you’re looking at. I’ve been stuck with gribs and you can manage but you need to know even more to make up for the deficiencies. Spot data such as you get from InReach is worse. GO! makes getting gribs (bah!) from a portable device to a computer without either a lot of transfers or paying yet more for a service like PredictWind. Synoptics are the big boy tool. PredictWind and its like are just bad information made easier.

Missing from your list are radar and looking out the window. Radar and a plotting board (I just use paper and a pencil) can allow you to dodge scattered thunderstorm cells and thereby avoid gusty winds and getting wet. Looking out the window is your best source of real-world tactical information. Often you can see a cold front approaching and can predict wind shifts and choose tacking points accordingly.

As others including John have pointed out tropical weather and other cyclonic events are a big deal. If you pay attention (weather fax really helps here) you’ll have lots of notice and can stay out of the way and make strategic decisions. You don’t have to be mid-ocean for this to be important.

Dave story: I was in Martinique on a delivery to Chesapeake Bay. A tropical wave started to show signs of development. Tracks looked unfortunate. As locals hunkered down (you can’t get an island out of the way) and cruisers followed suit, my read from synoptic charts and spaghetti models (for which you need Internet) was to get out of dodge. Worst case we had four days to the leading edge of the storm. I picked a route west of what I would otherwise and got on the phone to yards on St Thomas. Underway we watched the tracks and ended up bypassing St Thomas and continuing as the storm stayed South. Had it not, we had a plan. In the meantime we were closer to where we wanted to be, had better flight connections, less language issues (my French is quite rudimentary), and better infrastructure.

All that said, and with the highest regard for self-sufficiency, I’m a big fan of having a network of contacts who care about me at least to some extent and have the skills to provide credible advice. Big advantage to having broadband Internet.

This goes directly to John’s discussion of “discussion” and “synopsis.” You can get this from HF voice or from a friend reading off the Internet. You can get it off Navtex or RTTY. You can subscribe to it from many weather services including NOAA/NWS/OPC.

Second priority is to get where I want to be as fast and comfortably as possible. I want to know where the fronts are. I want to know where the developing systems are. I want to know where the ocean currents and eddies are. I’m certainly not going to chase around the ocean looking for them but if I can plan well and catch a boost or avoid foul current I surely will.

Others including some I respect such as Ann and Jim have mentioned tides and currents and I agree. Tactics for issues such as crossing a bar or a shoal are important. By the time you get to that point you can generally loiter. Never give up your schedule reserve prematurely. If your calculations say three days out that you should slow down you bear that in mind and press on. A day out or less if you have four hours to burn you slow down a bit but keep some reserve. Half a day out you may slow down yet more. Don’t slow down too early or you may find yourself with a tidal cycle to burn. Same with inlets that must only be passed in good light. I’d much rather arrive early and heave to than be held up and be forced to decide between running the inlet in fading light or waiting through the night. Guess which I think is the better idea? *grin*

Professional weather routers are NOT an excuse for not knowing what you are looking at. You cannot abrogate your responsibility for the safe leadership of your boat.

John mentioned 500 mb charts. I look at these partly as a data quality check for the surface forecasts but also to consider what else might happen. The forecast is the best professional estimate, but what are the error probabilities. See Reed’s Maritime Meteorology. Good bedtime reading.

MicHughV makes a good point that we have much better weather information than in the past and certainly people sailed without what we have now. That does not excuse not taking advantage of what progress has offered us for safety and comfort. There is no substitute for knowledge (different from information). Spend the time to learn what you are looking at. Don’t be one of the ducklings in an anchorage that heads out because someone else decides it’s time to go.

Another Dave story:
Crusty sailor dude: “You aren’t leaving in these conditions are you?”
DAVE: “Yep.”
CSD: “You’re going to die.”
DAVE: “Nope. Do it all the time.”
CSD: “Can I follow you?”
DAVE: “If you can keep up.”

I would also add #3 Use the least diesel unless trying to cross an higher of higher risk.

Lots of great points especially the reminder that radar is a great tactical tool in addition to actually looking outside and watching the barometer. I also agree that synoptics are a great tool. I like to use them in conjunction with the GRIB's as the synpotics - that are actually produced by a real meteorologist - can be used to confirm the validity of the model shown in the GRIB and then the GRIB with its higher level of detail and time granularity can be used with more confidence. Also, the synpotics in much of the world are not always to the same quality and time range as the excellent ones available from NOAA's OPC which leaves the GRIB models as often the only longer range tool available.


Totally concur with your point on weather routers. Our policy in the times we have hired a weather router (recently from Micronesia to the Aleutians in Alaska) is that we need to do all of our assessment first before looking at the router's email. In our last longer passage of some 3700nm there was some reassurance of having access to the weather router but we found it did not provide a lot of concrete value. We found that generally that we came to the same conclusion as the router but without having to wait for the daily update with all the concomitant time delays (i.e. delays to me sending the update, delays to them getting the update and then using dated info and then sending the recommendations back to us). On the other hand, it was reassuring to know if it all went badly that there was someone with knowledge, internet and not seasick/fatigued looking at the big picture for us.



I love that NOAA releases the weather discussion that can be downloaded via saildocs. I wish every weather office did that.


Final point if small. One can download the synoptics from NOAA via the the NOAA FTP site with an Iridium Go. We do have an old Furuno Weatherfax but find it easier to use the Iridium Go to get the weather fax.
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Old 01-08-2020, 13:42   #48
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

I used to listen and talk to "Herb", he of " Southbound II" weather diagnosis fame, talking with sailboats doing the trans Atlantic trip on SSB....it was interesting to note that he would be talking to several boats at a time that would tune into his weather forecasts...sometimes, and more often than not, these boats would be 50-100 miles from each other and be in entirely different weather conditions...he would tell you what was happening and likely to happen in the next day or two...I was always amazed at Herb's amazing weather detail...if he know your position, he could pinpoint with precision what was going on in your neck of the woods.

I've done the Bermuda race on several occasions and prior to leaving we'd get a pretty in-depth weather report and prognosis....but interestingly enough, out of the 30 odd boats in each race, no two boats would head off to Bermuda on the same track. Everybody decides on their own course of action...

It's a fascinating topic that is for sure. I like to follow the round the world races and these days you can tag along by internet and see who is doing what and why...

The key is to be really proficient in understanding weather, which is why having your own personal weather specialist is such a worthy effort.

The best I will admit to, is saying I have a vague idea about weather. It is a very fluid environment and can change at any time for most any reason. I can look at weather maps all day long, but really need an " expert" to decipher it all for me.

My personal take is that the long distance voyager would rather have too much wind, rather than too little. There is nothing quite like bobbing around on a windless day in a maddening roll to have you begging for wind...any wind
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Old 01-08-2020, 13:44   #49
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

I loved talking to Herb. Having synoptics made his thoughts much more understandable and the forecast became a discussion. He did have a tendency to assume you had unlimited fuel. *grin*
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Old 02-08-2020, 07:33   #50
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

yes, Herb was quick to suggest using the engine to either get out of harms way or motor to a better wind location.....loved his forecasts.....
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Old 02-08-2020, 08:01   #51
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pirate Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Building swell and or change in pattern/direction..
Cloud pattern/formations..
Temprature changes..
Red sky..
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Old 02-08-2020, 09:10   #52
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

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yes, Herb was quick to suggest using the engine to either get out of harms way or motor to a better wind location.....loved his forecasts.....
He was also very conservative. I started each check-in that I was after 12-15 kts and would risk 20-30 rather than be stuck in 5. *grin* I did make the miles he hoped every day. I learned a lot from Herb and have since from Chris and Lee and OPC and Frank and others.
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Old 02-08-2020, 11:36   #53
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Unless racing or hell bent on extra performance, being conservative is being smart.


I think conservative is good for most cruisers.


The good news today is that as we have better meteo tolls, today we are able to be both conservative and reasonably fast at the same time. This is better than ever before.



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Old 02-08-2020, 12:58   #54
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

I once missed being "first place" in a big sailboat race by a mere 4 seconds...I could have easily made that 4 seconds and more, but was too busy opening my requisite first beer of the day at start of race tradition...and wandered around a bit....shame on me...

a diehard racer would have waited until he crossed the "finish" line, before popping the first beer.....In my defense, I did wait until we crossed the " start" line...
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Old 02-08-2020, 13:15   #55
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

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Unless racing or hell bent on extra performance, being conservative is being smart.
Often, going fast is conservative. Less time for exposure to unknown conditions. Herb Hilgenberg got beaten up by bad weather between Newport and Bermuda, an experience that led to his long standing service. Interestingly Chris Parker gets sea sick, which makes him a little conservative about conditions also. That means lots of light air sailing (at which most cruisers aren't good) and lots of fuel burn.

In short there is conservative and too conservative which can end up being risky.

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I once missed being "first place" in a big sailboat race by a mere 4 seconds...I could have easily made that 4 seconds and more, but was too busy opening my requisite first beer of the day at start of race tradition...and wandered around a bit....shame on me...

a diehard racer would have waited until he crossed the "finish" line, before popping the first beer.....In my defense, I did wait until we crossed the " start" line...
I raced foredeck on OPB for over thirty years. Lots of alcohol. Been through taking off doors and cutting toothbrushes in half. The only time I raced Auspicious in Chesapeake Bay's Governor's Cup we did nicely but didn't win. We did run all the way down the Bay with the generator running and A/C on below. Good food, good drink, and rotated crew down for naps and cooling off.
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Old 02-08-2020, 17:30   #56
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

old timers....like...ahem...me....will recall the first Whitbread Around the World race (1973)....won by Sayulla II....owned and skippered by Ramon Carlin from Mexico...Ramon insisted that he and his crew, made up from family and friends, were not going going to saw any toothbrushes in half and other such insane weight saving ideas on his Swan 65....instead he insisted that there be caviar, wine and other such luxuries served on the boat with a mandatory happy hour each day...'jes sayin'.....Mexicans know a thing or two about having a good time....and still able to win a prestigious event like that......
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Old 03-08-2020, 18:58   #57
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

Fred,

I'm smiling as I read your question...

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Originally Posted by DreaminFred View Post
John-
Can you detail your WeFax system? Can you suggest an inexpensive solution that doesn't involve SSB?

Fred
'Cuz you write "WeFax", "inexpensive", and "doesn't involve SSB" (assume that refers to HF radio?)

This reminds me of the old racing adage: "you can have 'fast', 'reliable', and 'cheap'...pick two"....or in the realm of radio transmitters "clean, reliable, and cheap...pick two"....

I will point you to a good deal of info / "detail" of not only "my WeFax system", but of my entire Offshore Weather info/forecast system and of my on-board communications systems...



1) First off, please read both of my posting above again...as there is a good deal of info there, in a couple brief postings...
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f147/what-weather-information-makes-you-take-action-when-offshore-237410.html#post3192741

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f147/what-weather-information-makes-you-take-action-when-offshore-237410.html#post3193177





2) Then, have a look at some pics here....

a) Where you'll see my primary Furuno FAX-408 (which replaced my older, but still working, Alden MarineFaxIV), and I use this as my primary HF We-Fax receiver...it uses an insulated aft-lower shroud (~ 22' long) as its antenna....(this antenna is also used for HF-DSC receiving....connected to my M-802's DSC receive antenna jack)....










While the FAX-408 can be programmed (via its internal timer) to tune to specific frequencies, at specific times, to receive and print some specific charts....all without operator involvement, allowing you to get the weather charts you desire, all the time / everyday....(but, I prefer manual operation....turn it on when the charts I desire are to be broadcast, and let it print out what I want...then turn it off...)

This allows me to get the "gold standard" of offshore/hi-seas weather info/forecasts (the weather charts drawn by seasoned, experienced maritime meteorologists...as well as print out the hi-seas text forecasts / SafetyNET forecasts)....worldwide....for free...


But, be aware a Furuno FAX-408 costs a little more than $2000.....so, many don't go to the extremes that I do....rather they use some free software (such as JVComm or GetFAX, etc.) on their laptop (or some use a tablet...and some use other software on their tablet, like BlackCat, but I've never actually see BalckCat work)....and all that is needed is to connect their laptop's microphone input to the audio output of an HF receiver, whether a full-fledged MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radio (like an Icom M-802, etc.) costing from $700 to $2500, or some just use a simple/inexpensive (~ $150) portable shortwave receiver (which has "SSB" capability)....

Remember that ridding your boat of RFI, and using a good antenna, are the important parts of the system....along with your own knowledge/ability/expertise in HF communications, specifically your knowledge of HF Radiowave propagation!



I've explained over the years, that while a resonant antenna is not needed for HF receiving....and hence exact lengths aren't important, as anything from 12'-15' up to 45'-50' long will work well....but, I've also mentioned that there are reasons I choose something at the shorter end of this range (as much of my HF We-Fax reception is from the 12mhz band, with 8mhz and 9mhz secondary....and some at 6mhz or 4mhz.....and with most HF-DSC comms being 8mhz and 12mhz....a length that presents a decently efficient antenna at those freqs, is about 18' to 27' long....and my aft-lowers are about 23'....so, that's what I chose....I have the coax running from a coax "T" to the chainplate, and have an excellent HF receive antenna, easy-peasy, without another antenna cluttering things...


But, some will use their entire rig (mast, shrouds, etc.) as a random-length antenna....and they usually have good results.....except that they sometimes have a higher incidence of receive RFI to track-down and eliminate...

(remember that it is receive signal-to-noise ratio that is the key to successful HF communications....ridding your boat of RFI is the key here!!! and, the less money you spend on your HF receive system, the more important ridding your boat of RFI becomes!)





b) You'll also see one of my M-802's (I have a complete spare M-802 system stowed on-board, with spare tuner, antenna wire, etc.)....



Nav Station







I have all the pertinent HF We-Fax frequencies programmed into my M-802's....so, I can easily just plug the headphone output into my laptop, and receive my We-Fax charts that way (yes, I have JVComm in my laptop)....
I can also use the M-802 to receive NAVTEX...


In addition to a VHF cockpit mic/control....although, not shown in the pics, I also have extension cables for my M-802 mic and headphones, allowing me to fully use the M-802 in the cockpit when needed, etc..




c) My pics don't show it either, but in addition to my spare M-802, I also have a portable SW receiver (that costs about ~ $150) that I can use with my laptop (and the free JVComm software), to receive HF We-Fax charts....

[I suspect that this is what you were referring to, when asking about We-Fax reception that is "inexpensive"? Please understand that while you could use the internet to access these We-Fax charts (such as when you're at home, prior to departure), and of course some will use their email system (whether sat phone or PACTOR) to request/download these We-Fax charts (using saildocs, etc.).....the least expensive way is to receive these charts is via HF radio using SSB mode....

Whether you use your MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radiotelephone (such as Icom M-802) or you're using a Katio, Sangean, Tecsum, or Sony ShortWave receiver to receive the We-Fax broadcasts using the "SSB" mode, there is nothing cheaper than receiving them via SSB mode....

Remember reception is FREE, worldwide.....and, if ~ $150 for a portable SW rec, or ~ $1000 - $2500 for a full-fledged MF/HF-DSC-SSB Radiotelephone, is not in your budget, I don't know what else to recommend, as these are the least expensive ways to receive these charts, when at sea / offshore, away from cellular/mobile network, away from wi-fi, etc...it's via HF radio / SSB Radio!]




d) BTW, also not shown in these pics, and not talked about too much by me, is that I also have an Iridium 9555 sat phone, car charger, ext antenna, etc...
I use this only for important phone calls, but can use it for some very, very slow low-speed data comms (2.4kb....yep, that 2400bps....compared to normal DSL of 3,000,000bps....and to what most consider "broadband speed" 10 to 100 times DSL speeds....)





3) Please have look here at these videos....where there are quite a few details on my We-Fax system, including LIVE We-Fax chart reception and use...


They are all free, and nobody is trying to sell you anything, nor influence you (well, not much, anyway...LOL)....just pass on some great info / advice...
BTW, my videos are all done LIVE as-it-happens, in the real-world not a lab (no simulations)...just like everyone does it in real life....
(btw, please forgive my poor editing and occasional repetition....I did these myself, with no script, no director, no notes....just me, my fingers, my radios, and my extemporaneous narration...all while on-board my offshore cruising boat)


Offshore Weather
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2mPZAx2vWzdjTJjHlChruyY





And, for other videos on other maritime communications systems, etc....have a look here:



HF-DSC Comms

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2n3z5nlv-ga2zYuPozhUXZX



Generic Maritime HF comms
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2nPNdApNsZDo_Jk3NB_Bt1y



Icom M-802 Instruction Videos
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2npivDjoFrC-8QKVyMb4tVr




Offshore Sailing
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2nbwAGh5DKgTCj15iyl6qoY




VHF-DSC Comms (some of these are not my videos, and hence are done in a lab/classroom)
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnN6ygtZ3h2m-IejYg7J6QugtO2epizxF




I also have some info on the GMDSS, and our pleasure boat use of it, etc...as well as some info on weather reception (but, I do need to update it some)...
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/marine-hf-dsc-ssb-the-gmdss-communications-stool-legs-130640.html


https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/obtaining-accurate-offshore-hi-seas-weather-data-forecasts-while-at-sea-103555.html



And, if you want to read more details, on HF We-Fax, maritime HF comms, etc., please have a look at these "stickies" here:

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / properly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)
https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/marine-ssb-stuff-how-to-better-use-properly-install-ssb-and-troubleshoot-rfi-etc-133496.html


HF-SSB Radio, Proper Installation Tips/Techniques, etc.

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f13/hf-ssb-radio-proper-installation-tips-techniques-etc-198305.html






I do hope this helps.

Fair winds.

John
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Old 04-08-2020, 00:52   #58
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

I carry a Tecsun PL-880 portable shortwave radio on deliveries for weather fax along with a big hunk of wire to haul up the rigging as an antenna. I use JVCOMM32 for WEFAX demodulation (same software that John uses) although I carry multiPSK also.

The biggest hurdle (and it isn't very big) is the audio cable from the shortwave radio to your laptop. Most new laptops have "combi" audio jacks now so you need the four conductor TRRS plug on the laptop end and a stereo or mono jack on the radio end (depending on the radio). I do build and sell those cables (I can't find them commercially) but if you have any soldering skills you can make your own. I'm happy to go over the wiring with anyone that wants to build one.
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Old 04-08-2020, 04:21   #59
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

We left Guam heading north for Japan and there was absolutely nothing on the satellite weather systems to worry about. Two days later and 250 nm north the satphone gribs showed a cat2-3 two days behind us and heading straight over our course!

My wife immediately said, "Saipan looks nice" and we changed course 90 deg to starboard!

Pays to have a good coms system, we would have been one of those boats that just disappeared and good to have a real mariner as a wife and partner.
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:20   #60
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Re: What weather information makes you take action when offshore?

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Two days later and 250 nm north the satphone gribs showed a cat2-3 two days behind us and heading straight over our course!
A graphic demonstration of one of the shortfalls of gribs. The computer models make necessary assumptions that simply don't reflect the real world. Accordingly we don't see cold fronts (or their wind shifts) and deep, compact cyclonic events get smoothed over. Further you see only one model without the benefit of all the other data meteorologists use to generate synoptic charts: other models, ensembles, balloon data, satellite imagery (visual, IR, radar), VOSP, etc.
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