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Using the National Weather Service FTP-MAIL Service
Retrieval of weather data & products using e-mail


FTPmail is a system which makes use of the standard utility software called simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) available to users who may only have electronic mail (e-mail) access, such as, via INMARSAT connectivity between ships at sea and shore ground communication facilities. This FTPmail application reads a normal e-mail message content that is constructed with FTP commands. The process passes the commands to the FTP site process. The FTP process runs the commands and returns the results as a generated response. The Gateway e-mail application issues an automated e-mail reply back to the end user.

The National Weather Service (NWS) runs the FTPmail server application primarily for mariners who do not have direct access to the World Wide Web but they do have an e-mail system. This allows them to access our services and retrieve our products from the FTP server. Note - is the only valid FTP site for this service. By using FTPmail, a user can request text or graphic files from NWS and have the requested data automatically mailed back to them as either an attachment to or content of an e-mail message. The turnaround time is from thirty minutes to three hours normally, depending upon the path the e-mail takes.

To get started in using the NWS FTPMAIL service, follow these simple directions to obtain the FTPMAIL "help" file, or see:

In plain text format
Send an e-mail to:
Subject line: Put anything you like
Body: help

Caution - Read the help file carefully - 99% of errors using FTPMAIL are simple typo's, incorrect capitalization, failure to send in plain text format, leading or trailing spaces, or failure to set up any spam filters properly.

FTPmail Examples

1. An example of a composed E-mail to get the latest zone forecast for Montgomery County, MD:

e-mail address :
Subject line : anything
Message content :

cd data
cd forecasts
cd zone
cd md
get mdz004.txt

2. An example of a composed e-mail to get the current facsimile chart for Atlantic Ocean sea-state analysis would be:

e-mail address :
Subject line : sea-state analysis

Message content for a TIFF version of a Chart :

cd fax
get PJAA99.TIF


Message content for a gif version of a Chart :

cd fax
get PJAA99.gif

NOTE : You have two choices of format for marine facsimile charts. Upper case and lower case alpha characters are used for the "TIFF" and "gif" versions of facsimile products, respectively. If you fail to use the right case, you will not get an attached product in your returned Email. Also, the "gif" version of the product will be a larger attached file than the "TIFF" version. However, the "TIFF" version requires a image viewer software application or browser plugin to manipulate and print the chart. These are only examples of the possibilities that can be requested.

Returned e-mail

Possible Status messages - You may get an e-mail status message back if the server is busy. The subject line will indicate that action is being taken upon your request.

Subject: ftpmail job queueing for retry queue/01021045116.158296

This status informs you that the FTP server activity is heavy and you are queued in the process of the request. (This is an example and the numbers will change with each status.)

Returned e-mail content - The returned e-mail has a subject line containing the server address, path, and file name of the original request. Assuming the request was for the sea-analysis chart in example 2 above the resulting return e-mail would be.

Subject: uuencoded (get PJAA99.TIF)

The e-mail body content may contain the requested file or it may be attached for you to file and display by an appropriate software application. This example would have an attachment containing the product. Another example, if you were to select a "gif" it would be contained in the body of the e-mail as it is displayable by the e-mail system on your computer.


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     Page last Modified: 27 December, 2016 7:10 PM