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National Weather Service Proposed Changes - Updated Report

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 04, 2009 05:38 PM

Published: 2009-10-04 17:38:48
Topics: Weather

As reported on the Caribbean Safety and Security Net

See new questions and answers below

The National Weather Service is proposing changes to the zones for which they provide weather forecasts. The current offshore zones of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Southwest North Atlantic are too large to describe many local weather impacts. These zones cover very large areas that include reefs, islands, and channels, as well as coastlines with rugged terrain. This complex geography is often the cause of localized but significant weather impacts. The large sizes of these forecast areas equate to fairly low precision forecasts. If more detail were added to the forecast text, then the forecast wording would be overly complex and difficult to understand. Sadly, more detail usually means less clarity.

The proposed new, smaller marine zones that offer more detail, yet are easier to read. The solution is to divide the existing offshore forecast zones into smaller pieces. This would allow the forecaster the opportunity to describe more subtle differences in winds and seas than is currently possible, although with more simplified wording. In addition, the new format can be provided in both imperial and metric units, as well as in Spanish and French, in addition to English.

NWS has divided the existing marine zones into sectors based on meteorological and geographical considerations, based on localized weather patterns and incorporating boundaries that would be as easy as possible to describe and conceptualize geographically. They are inviting feedback and comments to the proposed changes that you can review here and provide feedback through an e-mail link to or telephone (305) 229-4454.

Please bear in mind that these changes may have some impact on those weather services providing voice broadcasts and download services. Weather forecasts are an important part of cruising, in fact, possibly the most important part. The National Weather Service’s invitation for feedback is an important step in cooperation between the service and its customers, so we should take advantage of the opportunity to comment on their plans.

Some Questions by Karsten Staffeldt (provides weather information to cruisers) answered by Hugh Cobb, Chief TAFB at NOAA

Q1: Regarding Areas - it might be an idea to include Area in the text forecast, example: Area C 9 SW Caribbean including the Nicaraguan Coast!

A1: The new proposed zone titles will provide geographic descriptors for each zone. The zone C9 you mentioned does have that title. By simply clicking on the zone you will get a "sample forecast" of the zone and what our proposed zone header name would be - try it! Here is the URL for the sample forecast....

Q2: In current text forecasts you are often including info. such as shower and thunderstorm activity, will that continue?

A2: We will continue to provide mention of any shower or thunderstorm activity - but more specific to each zone!

Q3: Will the covering Synopsis continue?

A3: We will continue to provide a general synopsis for the entire Caribbean with specific forecasts for each zone.

Hope this helps. BTW....we hope to transition to the new zone configurations within the next 9 months to a year.