Knowing the weather conditions is critical before heading out on a boat during the day or night in coastal Georgia, South Carolina, or North Carolina. Navigating a vessel is challenging before adding inclimate weather conditions which makes things even more difficult. The passengers’ safety onboard the watercraft is highly dependent on the operator, and failing to read a marine forecast can put everyone in danger. What is a NOAA Marine Forecast?

What Does NOAA Stand For

NOAA stands for National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration. The government-funded agency wears many hats.

The purpose of NOAA is to research coastlines, weather, oceans, and climate. As a result of climate changes, the impact forces changes on each area of study, and NOAA predicts the short and long-term impacts. 

In addition to studying the coastal environments and weather, NOAA implements regulations and strategies to conserve fragile ecosystems.

The most commonly used resource for boaters is the marine forecast that NOAA predicts and makes available to the public.

What Information Is Included In A NOAA Marine Forecast

NOAA releases information that will help a boater better understand the conditions before venturing onto the water. 

Wind Direction And Speed

The direction and speed of the wind significantly impact the operation of a vessel. In some instances, the wind blows hard enough to keep boaters secured to the dock. 

NOAA releases a four-day forecast that includes both the intensity of the wind and the direction of the wind. Wind speeds published in knots compared to miles per hour. One knot equals 1.15 miles per hour. 

It is critical to understand that cold fronts affect wind speeds for short windows of the day. Boaters have the opportunity to head offshore before the winds increasing. Therefore, pay close attention to the timing of the arrival of winds to avoid wasting a day of boating. 

Before pulling out of the driveway at the house, review the wind direction and intensity to prevent being surprised and realize the conditions are not safe for operation.

Wave Height

The wind direction and speed directly impact the wave height. As obvious as it sounds, the higher the wind speed, the larger the waves. 

Most often, NOAA releases a range of 2-3 feet instead of set heights such as 4 feet. Know the limits of your boat and warn passengers if rough seas are expected, so they have the option to back out of the trip. 

When winds fluctuate through the day, it is not uncommon to read reports of building seas. For example, waves 2-3 building to 4-6 in the afternoon. Heed the warning and bring the boat back to the dock before the seas become rough. 

Atmospheric Conditions

Equally tumultuous are dense fog, thunderstorm activity, and rain. Each of these plays a contributing factor in navigating a watercraft safely.

Decreased visibility is the primary concern in rain and fog. Operating at high speeds in low visibility leads to disastrous consequences, including colliding with stationary objects or vessels. Fortunately, NOAA marine forecasts alert boaters of impending visibility concerns. When heavy rain or dense fog is expected, it is essential to remain back at the dock

Electricity and water don’t mix, and extra precautions are necessary when there is a risk of lightning. Watercraft are prone to lightning strikes as they remain the highest object on the surface of the water. 

When NOAA releases a high percentage, chance of thunderstorms remain at home. However, surprises pop up from time to time, steer clear of the storm or return to the dock at the first sign of building storm cells. 

Do You know How To Understand a NOAA Marine Forecast

Fortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a resource for boaters to help increase safety by understanding the conditions before heading out on the water. Safety is the number one consideration when boating. When the conditions become too rough, small craft advisories are released. Remember to wait for the right conditions rather than risking life and the watercraft.