One of the great things about cruising is the day to day freedom to go and do what you want to do. You quickly learn that to enjoy those carefree days you have to choose whether today you will head out on a nice downwind run, stay in the harbor, or tuck yourself and your boat in a mangrove canal in preparation for a passing front or tropical system. The key to making those decisions and the root source for weather information is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s forecasting. There are many places that take NOAA’s data and repackage it, some with great insight, but the 1st place I look each morning is NOAA.gov.
On of the critical skills that Margie and I teach couples that join us on for our cruising classes is finding and applying today’s weather forecast to our days activities. It is an inexact science and having different viewpoints when big systems are coming is great. There is some really wonderful computer modeling out there but, and this is a big caveat, you still need to be able to interpret it to for your area with the knowelege that things can change. Getting different viewpoints is a big part of the interpretive process.
Back to NOAA, I was reading a post this morning from Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, he is visiting the national hurricane center this week as a new tropical system (Tomas) ramps up in the Atlantic;
Since this is such a large increase in intensity from what was forecast–Tomas was not supposed to have 60 mph winds for another 24 hours–this necessitates issuance of a special advisory package. A full set of forecast maps, a marine advisory, wind probability forecast, and a discussion just went out to the world. While all this was occurring, several phone calls to Barbados, St. Lucia, and Martinique were made, alerting the islands to the fact that a Hurricane Warning may be required with the 11pm advisory tonight. NHC has both French speaking and Spanish speaking meteorologists on staff that can coordinate with the islands that don’t have English as their main language. I listened in on a 5-minute conversation in French between the weather service in Martinique and NHC meteorologist Mike Tichacek, as they discussed when Martinique may want to issue a Hurricane Warning.
What a great job our government does in providing this information and making it available to the world. Sometimes it’s hard when you get your tax bill to immediately appreciate all that we get, Noaa is one of the unsung heroes in the US.