Science: Weathership Economy

Not many transatlantic airline passengers ever see a weathership, but the tough little cutters stationed at wide intervals across the stormy North Atlantic are items of reassurance for those who know about them. Supported by the U.S. and 14 Atlantic countries, the weatherships supply the streams of data that are the raw material of modern weather analysis. Their sounding balloons, sent up at frequent intervals, report on conditions aloft. Their radio beacons are like lighthouses on the empty ocean. Sometimes the ships serve as lifesaving stations.

Last week the U.S., which maintains about half of the weather fleet, announced that it will...

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