Marine Weather Basics
Ever since man first set sail, one eye has been on
the horizon and the other on the skies for signs of changing marine
weather. Vessels at sea are dramatically affected by weather systems.
When a storm strikes on land, most people can go indoors and find
shelter from the storm. But the mariner doesn’t always have this luxury.
Unexpected storms, strong winds, waves, or fog can adversely affect the
safety of the ship and its crew. Sailors rely on marine-weather data so
they can make informed navigational decisions and seek a safe harbor
when storms are eminent.
The National Weather Service offers a wealth of marine-weather data that
assist mariners around the globe including warnings and forecasts,
coastal-marine forecasts, offshore forecasts, high-sea warnings and
forecasts, special marine warnings, hurricane- and tropical-storm
advisories and warnings, and marine-weather reports. Read on for an
overview of marine weather basics and discover where you can find
resources for text-savvy sailors.
Each set of warnings and marine weather forecasts has a specific purpose
and emphasis. For example, special marine warnings are typically issued
for short duration, potentially dangerous water events that take place
“over water.” They pose a unique threat to mariners who aren’t covered
through other warnings such as water spouts, wind shifts, thunderstorms,
and squalls. High-seas warnings are of interest to large ocean-going
vessels like ships. These warnings tend to emphasize gale-force (or
Typical marine-weather reports include small craft warnings, tide times,
coastal forecasts, and buoy data such as water temperature and wind
readings. Each marine-weather service uses data gathered from around the
globe to make their predictions. Among the tools used to collect
marine-weather data are buoys, radar, satellite images, and real-time
observations from volunteer ships and U.S. Coast Guard stations.
A Modern Look at the Weather
A nationwide Marine Report Program through the National Weather Service
uses information reported directly from mariners themselves. These
volunteers relay marine-weather conditions as they occur. While
instruments and satellites are invaluable, these eyewitness reports play
a vital role.
The United States Coast Guard also issues a weekly local notice to
mariners. Though not necessarily a marine-weather service, this notice
provides details of interest to vessels traveling local waterways such
as dredging in the area, bridge construction over rivers and bays, and
new buoys that have been launched.
Who Needs Marine-Weather Reports?
Whether a hobbyist or a ship’s captain, boaters pay attention to marine
weather. They can get advance warnings of weather events through these
forecasts and advisories and take appropriate action. Marine weather
reports and forecasts come in many forms including radio and television
broadcasts and interactive, Internet weather maps. While on the water,
many tools are available to help mariners stay informed including radio
warnings and forecasts as well as common sense. The National Weather
Service even provides e-mails and text messages to those interested in
marine-weather updates, as well as products and services for mariners.
Marine weather reports, forecasts, and advisories are critical to anyone
traveling the seas and waterways. Be prepared before your next voyage by
checking the weather above and below ground.
Tips For Reading Weather Maps
Weather Radar 101