Retirement of Radiofax

After decades of operation, MetService retired its Radiofax broadcast service on 1 July 2023.

The MetService isobaric mean sea level analysis and prognosis charts that were transmitted through Radiofax continue to be produced and are available on the MetService website here, also on a low bandwidth page here which is designed for users with more limited or paid data connections (such as via satellite) to minimize download size and cost.


What’s not changing?

While the Radiofax service ceased from 1 July 2023, it is important to note that it was not used for the more safety critical oceanic/high seas warnings and forecasts which continue to be produced and broadcast through all existing channels/services, including: internet, email, radio broadcast, and satellite broadcast under the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). For more information about the GMDSS, see the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) website for the Worldwide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service (WWMIWS).


What is Radiofax and why is it stopping?

The Radiofax service was one method that MetService has used to transmit isobaric mean sea level analysis and prognosis charts throughout the South Pacific (an example is shown below).

Radiofax (also known as HF Fax or Radiofacsimile) is an analogue broadcast using high frequency (HF) radio waves to transmit images over very long distances. The technology is almost 100 years old (see Wikipedia for more about its history) and was originally used by MetService to transmit weather charts and images to other National Meteorological Services in the South Pacific – long before the arrival of the internet.

Nowadays, Radiofax equipment is scarce and difficult to service, costly to maintain (especially transmitting equipment), and the technology has now been superseded by the likes of HF email or satellite-based internet – all key reasons for the retirement of the service.


Modern solutions

Newer technologies allowing vessels to receive data while crossing the ocean have been revolutionary. Satellite internet connections have enabled up to date weather information and forecasts (such as maps of pressure, wind and waves) to be directly displayed within onboard Chartplotters or Multi-Function Displays (MFDs). These can now provide skippers with a much richer source of information that can be integrated with other navigational maps and vessel data in digital devices.

In addition to modern satellite technology, there are also solutions that allow the receipt of email via HF Radio, including small images or even grib data. Saildocs, supported by the SailMail Association, is a popular service and our former Weather Ambassador Bob McDavitt has pointed out the Y2K Sail service that offers a number of low bandwidth charts and images. (Please note, MetService is not affiliated with or endorsing these services, but we acknowledge their utility for the community.)


Notices to the community

The Minister of Transport has approved this change, as proposed through the Ministry’s User Reference Group that periodically reviews the Agreement for Meteorological Services between the Ministry and MetService. As part of the change, MetService has worked with several organisations for the required notices and updates to documentation, including Maritime NZ, Toitu Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


If you would like to get in touch with us about this change please contact


Radiofax example

Figure 1: Example of a chart transmitted via Radiofax, a mean sea level analysis valid at 6am on 13 April 2022 NZST.