Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Wind Measurement Technology May Help Olympic Sailing, Aviation and Weather Forecasting

New Wind Measurement Technology May Help Olympic Sailing, Aviation and Weather Forecasting

ScienceDaily (July 3, 2008)
A team of researchers at the Ocean University of China has developed and tested a mobile lidar (light detection and ranging) station that can accurately measure wind speed and direction over large areas in real time -- an application useful for aviation safety, weather forecasting and sports.

The mobile lidar station can measure wind fields more accurately, which could help world-class athletes compete in international competitions, such as the Olympics. Ocean University is in Qingdao, which is hosting the sailing competitions of the XXIX Olympic Games and the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, and this technique is being tested in conjunction with the event.

"Wind is non-uniform even in a small sailing field," says Professor Zhi-Shen Liu of the Key Laboratory of Ocean Remote Sensing, Ministry of Education of China, Ocean University of China, who led the research. "Athletes could maximize their performances if they have the most accurate information to help them capture the wind."

In Olympic sailing, individual competitors or teams of athletes sail various classes of sailboats in timed trials over a single course. The contest requires them to navigate upwind, downwind and everything in between. Their final time depends on numerous factors, including the boat design, the skill of the sailors, course difficulty and ocean currents. Perhaps the most important factor, though, is how well the athletes can harness the wind that fills their sails.

Because wind constantly changes speed and direction, athletes and coaches hope to have the best information at the start of a run. On cloudy, rainy days, the standard meteorological tool of Doppler radar can accurately provide wind field information. When no clouds are present, however, Doppler radar is ineffective. The best wind data on clear days comes from ocean buoys and land stations that use wind cups and ultrasonic anemometers to measure wind speed.

In the Qingdao sailing area, where this summer's competitions will take place, only four buoys, one boat and one tower are available to measure sea surface winds within a competition area of approximately 10 square kilometers.

Liu and his lidar group, composed of research scientists and graduate students, have been working with an optical remote sensing technology called Doppler lidar, which they are applying for weather and environmental research. Lidar works by scattering laser beams off atmospheric aerosols or molecules. Doppler lidar takes advantage of the fact that when these aerosols or molecules are moving in the wind, the scattered laser light changes frequency -- the same way an approaching car has a higher pitched sound than a car driving away.

The advantage of Doppler lidar, says Liu, is that it can quickly sample a large area, providing a much finer map of winds than buoys alone. He and his group have developed a lidar bus, which can move equipment to the experiment field conveniently.

Last year, they successfully tested their new bus at the 2007 Qingdao International Regatta sailing event. They moved the bus to the seashore near the sailing field, and made a horizontal scan over the sea surface, making the measurement in real time and then uploading the data to the local meteorological station every 10 minutes. They envision a similar effort in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic games.

The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Key Laboratory of Ocean Remote Sensing, the Ministry of Education of China and the China Meteorological Administration (CMA).


U.S. Department of Labor Giving $17 Million to Iowa to Aid Recovery From Flooding and Tornadoes

WASHINGTON, June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a $17,127,000 grant to create approximately 600 temporary jobs for eligible dislocated workers in Iowa to assist in the cleanup and recovery resulting from damage caused by recent flooding and tornadoes.

"Our hearts go out to Iowans who are suffering from the ongoing flooding and who were victims of the recent tornadoes, including last week's tragic loss of life at a Boy Scout camp," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "This $17 million grant will pay for temporary jobs to aid in the cleanup and recovery from these natural disasters and will provide humanitarian assistance to Iowans in need."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has declared multiple counties across Iowa as eligible for its Public Assistance Program.

The grant, awarded to the Iowa Workforce Development agency, will provide funding to create temporary jobs to assist in cleanup, demolition, repair, renovation and reconstruction of destroyed public structures, facilities and lands within the affected communities. Funds will also be used for projects that provide food, clothing, shelter, and other types of humanitarian assistance for disaster victims, including work on the homes of individuals who are eligible for the federally funded weatherization program.

Of the total announced today, $6,000,000 will be released initially, with the balance expected to be released on or around June 30.

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor's discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state's ability to meet specific guidelines. For more information on National Emergency Grants, visit

U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

Volunteer Agencies Play Key Role In Wisconsin Disaster Recovery

Release Date: June 28, 2008
Release Number: 1768-036

» More Information on Wisconsin Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Flooding

MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin residents who suffered losses from the recent severe storms, tornadoes and flooding and continue to have unmet needs may seek help through a number of volunteer groups.

"We would like to encourage Wisconsin residents to take advantage of our 2-1-1 Program when looking for additional assistance," said Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) Administrator Johnnie Smith. "It's a valuable resource that unites those who want to help with those who most need assistance."

Residents can dial 2-1-1 on their telephones to obtain information on local volunteer agencies working in their county. The 2-1-1 operators have phone numbers, program and services information, locations, hours of operation and other relevant resources. Those who call 2-1-1 may be referred to resources including housing assistance, counseling services, employment opportunities and health services.

"The volunteer groups are vital elements in all state and federal recovery efforts as they focus on helping families develop effective recovery plans," said Federal Coordinating Officer Dolph Diemont of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As federal coordinating officer, Diemont directs the federal side of the federal/state disaster response and recovery efforts in Wisconsin.

Anyone affected by the recent storms and flooding should register with FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585. Wisconsin residents can also register online at

For individuals seeking more information and/or possible participation, here are two volunteer groups currently working in Wisconsin:

Salvation Army
1-800-264-6412 /

American Red Cross
1-866-GET-INFO (1-866-438-4636) /

FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.



This is a problem for all blue water mariners. My contacts tell me that this downgrade is due to special interest such as "private weather services" who want NOAA out of the business of supplying public "open source" weather data. It looks like someone is lobbying someone on the Hill or at NOAA for these changes...

All mariners need to take notice and write and let him know that we need this "public service" unchanged!

NOAA To Make Surface Chart Cutback

July 8th, 2008

<span class=NOAA Surface Chart Notice" height="320" width="501">

The above shows a notice box on NOAA’s current 24hr Surface Prediction Chart which can be found HERE. It states:

On 08/15/08 the limits of this chart will change to 24N-48N, 48W-101W. Send comments to by 07/15/08

Notice on the live version of this chart Hurricane Bertha and the area of low pressure to her Northeast are both outside the proposed limits! Here at gCaptain we consider this a degradation of service not a simple adjustment of scale and are supprised by this move from an otherwise rational government organization. It is our opinion that the boundries of this chart should instead be increased to cover the entire North Atlantic which would bring it inline with NOAA’s 48 and 96 hour prediction charts (view all charts HERE)!

Please leave your comments regarding this change bleow and we will be sure they get fowarded on to Mr. Feit and our contacts at NOAA. READ>

USCG Safety Alert: Controllable Pitch Propeller Systems and Situational Awareness

Coast Guard strongly recommends that owners, operators, and masters of vessels with controllable pitch propellers understand the design and operation of the system after marine casualty in March of 2008 involving a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea resulted in multiple fatalities and complete loss of the vessel.

July 2, 2008 (Washington, DC): A marine casualty in March of 2008 involving a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea resulted in multiple fatalities and complete loss of the vessel. A Marine Board of Investigation is currently examining the various circumstances surrounding the casualty. Although the investigation is not complete, safety issues associated with casualty have been identified that merit immediate public dissemination.

Based on the survivors' testimony, the crew experienced difficulty with launching and entering the three liferafts because the vessel was making considerable sternway when the order to abandon ship was issued. Evidence indicates the main engines were still running and the vessel was backing with significant astern pitch. Consequently, two of the liferafts quickly traveled forward past the bow of the vessel when they were launched. Attempts to retrieve the liferafts using the painter lines were unsuccessful. As a result, the majority of the crew members were forced to jump into the 34°F water and attempt to swim to the liferafts. Ultimately, only 22 members of the vessel's crew made it into the liferafts. All of these crew members survived. Of the other 25 crew members who never made it into a liferaft, four died and one remains missing.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends that owners, operators, and masters of vessels with controllable pitch propellers understand the design and operation of the system. This includes the primary and emergency sources of power for both the control and main systems, the location and procedures for using alternate control stations, and the locations of the emergency shutdowns. While controllable pitch propeller systems are generally designed and constructed to fail in the "as is" position, in hydraulic CPP systems, the actual blade pitch may change. In this case the vessel was making considerable sternway. This was not a unique occurrence. The MS EXPLORER also experienced this problem before it sank in November of 2007. Vessel operators, masters and crew members must be prepared to respond accordingly.

In light of this incident, vessel owners, operators, masters and crew members should also be mindful of the following safety issues:

1. Vessel masters and officers must maintain situational awareness at all times and understand the effects of their actions and decisions on the safety of their crew, especially during emergency situations involving flooding. This includes understanding what impact the vessel's speed, heading, heel, and trim will have on the crew as it abandons ship.

2. The master or individual in charge must evaluate the particular circumstances of each emergency situation (weather, seas, experience of crew, condition of vessel, etc.) and adjust emergency procedures accordingly to provide for the safety of his crew, vessel, and the environment.

3. All crew members should understand that immersion suits will affect their dexterity, limit mobility, and may make it more difficult to launch survival craft, particularly when the survival craft are covered with snow or ice. Crew members responsible for launching the survival craft should practice and be able to do so with their immersion suits on. Lifesaving gear should be kept free of ice and snow whenever possible.

4. When abandoning ship, crewmembers should make every effort to enter directly into a liferaft or lifeboat before entering the water. If crewmembers must enter the water, they should stay together and attempt to enter a liferaft, climb onto floating debris, or use any other means available to get themselves out of the water as soon as possible.

5. Emergency Drills should not be limited to routine procedures such as donning immersion suits. Emergency drills should ensure all crew members, including bridge and engine room personnel, understand and practice what to do in various emergency situations under actual conditions.

Additional information regarding emergency procedures for Commercial Fishing Vessels can be found at:

This safety alert is provided for informational purpose only and does not relieve any domestic or international safety, operational or material requirement. Developed and distributed by the Office of Investigations and Analysis, United States Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC.