Marine program weather service standards: chapter 3

3.0 Marine Program Weather Service Standards

MSC’s marine program service standards were developed to supplement performance reporting mechanisms that currently exist within ECCC, including the departmental Report on Plans and Priorities, the Performance Management Framework, and the ISO9001:2008 Quality Management System (soon to be 9001:2015). They have been developed in consultation with key clients and are intended clearly state what level of service our clients can normally expect from the MSC’s marine forecast and warning program.

These service standards have been categorized into three different types, as defined by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat: accessibility, timeliness, and accuracy.

3.1  Accessibility

The MSC recognizes that a standard of accessibility for both the organization and its products is key to client services. Clients have several means to access both the MSC and its products.

3.1.1 Accessibility of the Meteorological Service of Canada

The MSC is committed to being accessible to the users of its services and products. This commitment is demonstrated by the numerous ways in which mariners may contact the MSC directly to ask questions, make suggestions or submit comments, file a complaint, or receive one-on-one weather consultation.

The primary portal for marine clients to contact MSC is through the National Inquiry Response Team (NIRT), whose main function is to receive and respond to client inquiries. The NIRT can be contacted by postage mail, telephone, fax, email, or by completing the “contact us” fields on the Government of Canada’s web site.

Mailing address: National Inquiry Response Team
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Room 7034, 351 St-Joseph Blvd
Gatineau (QC)
K1A 0H3
Telephone: 877-789-7733
Fax: 819-938-4449
TTY: 819-994-0736

NIRT has established the following performance targets to ensure client feedback is addressed in a timely fashion:

  1. NIRT reports will be analyzed within 10 working days; and
  2. Specific NIRT requests will be responded to within 10 working days.

In addition to using the NIRT portal, marine clients who are specifically looking to make inquiries about MSC’s METAREAs forecast products and services may also use the dedicated METAREAs email portal at:

While the MSC reviews its Weather Consultation Services, one-on-one forecaster consultation is available through a toll-free 1-844 telephone service (Marine Weather: 1-844-505-2525). This service allows clients to consult directly with on-duty MSC meteorologists about various marine forecast products in greater detail, if necessary.

For clients seeking historical meteorological or climatological information, a dedicated toll-free 1-844 telephone service (Climate Weather: 1-844-508-2626) and Historical Climate Data web site are also available.

3.1.2 The Accessibility of Marine Forecast and Warning Products

The MSC will make its marine forecast and alert information available to its clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To ensure this, MSC employs a robust dissemination network that utilizes a variety of tools - both internal and external to ECCC - and in partnership with both federal agencies and private companies specializing in the provision of information pertinent to the marine community. Thus, MSC ensures that its marine forecast and warning information is available to mariners from as many sources, and in as many locations, as possible.

The following media are used by the MSC to disseminate its marine forecast and warning information for Canadian waters and the METAREAs waters for which it is responsible:

  • Weatheroffice web site
  • Weatheradio
  • Hello Weather: 1-833-79HELLO (1-833-794-3556)
  • Weather One-on-One Forecaster Consultation (1-844-505-2525);
  • Marine RSS/ATOM feeds (accessible via the Weatheroffice web site); and
  • Canadian Meteorological Centre’s (CMC) Datamart web site.

External media (operated and maintained by agencies outside of MSC):

Note that not all of these sources are available in all areas. Please contact the MSC for more information pertaining to your specific area, or for additional information regarding any of these dissemination media. Also, please note the service limitations outlined in the following section as several factors may impact service availability.

3.1.3 Service Limitations

It should be noted that levels of service differ somewhat geographically and accessibility to a particular product may sometimes be interrupted for reasons outside of ECCC’s control.

Factors that may impact accessibility include, but are not limited to, geographic location of a receiving station, local topography, weather/atmospheric conditions, and technological capabilities. For example, coastal topography may result in interruptions to the Weatheradio signal in some near-shore locations, or a client’s geographic location may result in the loss of the signal used to obtain marine forecast products via Inmarsat-C when transiting above 75°N.

Furthermore, MSC’s marine products that are disseminated via a third-party (i.e. external to ECCC) may be subject to service limitations resulting from a disruption to the third-party’s services. For example, a local Internet Service Provider may experience an outage at its service facility, thereby preventing subscribers from accessing ECCC’s web site. For more information regarding service limitations, please contact the MSC directly (see Section 3.1.1).

3.2 Timeliness

The MSC recognizes that it is of vital importance to its clients that the most up-to-date weather information is available in a timely manner. The MSC also recognizes that mariners rely on receiving marine weather forecasts based on a prescribed schedule.

The MSC will issue its marine forecasts according to their established schedules.

For Canadian waters, the product issue time schedules vary based on product type and on the region for which they are associated with. Complete details on the MSC’s marine forecast bulletin schedule for all domestic waters are available on the ECCC web site on the Regional Marine Information web page.

For METAREAS waters, the product issue time of METAREAs marine forecasts is defined to be the time at which METAREAs marine forecasts are made available by the MSC for broadcast over the relevant marine radio-telecommunications systems as referenced in Annex 4 of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System Manual.

Clients should note that, for regularly scheduled forecasts, radio broadcast times may differ from issue times by up to 30 minutes.

Updated forecasts for Canadian and METAREAs waters are issued immediately by the MSC upon the need becoming apparent. It should be note that updated forecasts are considered to be “unscheduled”. As such, the service standard for “Timeliness” does not apply to these types of bulletins.

3.3 Accuracy

The MSC makes every effort to deliver accurate forecasts at all times. However, the uncertainty inherent in the science of meteorological prediction coupled with the complex meteorological dynamics of the marine environment require that a realistic and obtainable performance standard be established.

The marine meteorological parameter that has been identified for use as a measurement indicator to quantify the accuracy of the marine forecast is the prediction of gale-force winds, which are defined as wind speeds of 34 to 47 knots inclusive.

This parameter was chosen because gale-force winds provide a readily identifiable marine event that is relatively common throughout all maritime regions for which Canada is responsible to provide marine forecast information for. Also, gale-force winds have been identified as an important threshold for mariners in general, so establishing this marine alert event as a performance measurement indicator will be meaningful to most of the clients using MSC’s marine forecast products.

The MSC will place gale warnings in effect at least 18 hours in advance of the events.

A lead time of 18 hours was chosen because this time interval is considered to be a realistic service standard objective, in that it is considered to be a sufficient period of time for mariners to take whatever precautions they may deem appropriate before the onset of a gale-force wind event.

Although gale-force wind in the only performance indicator at this time, it is possible that additional marine weather parameters may be identified as performance indicators and reported against at some point in the future.

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