Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to learn the present winds offshore — West Coast of Vancouver Island, BC

These notes apply to any ocean, but we will use specific examples for west coast of Vancouver Island, BC for those following the OAR NW expedition, which has  reached Port Hardy now at the top of the island, waiting for a good weather window to head south on the ocean side.

There are several ways to learn about actual ocean winds (as opposed to forecasted winds, which I will address later).

Buoys and Lighthouses
In some cases there are buoys offshore that report winds back on a regular basis. In our example there are 3 of them. The red dots at the EC marine weather page.  There are also 4 land based stations along the coast on the same link.


We can also learn the winds from the ASCAT instrument on the satellite MetOP-A that provides data in this region several times a day as it passes overhead.  Read this data from the Ocean Surface Winds Team website. This is wonderful data, actual measurements, not predictions, but there are some nuances to using it.

For more details on the use of the data see an earlier article on the subject at Starpath article on ASCAT

Ship reports
Ships at sea participating the VOS program report weather to the NWS every 6h, and some times as often as every hour. Starpath has set up a free service for mariners to get access to this near live data by email. Most vessels have email underway these days, so this is a very handy service.  On land we can use it to get more insight into local weather at sea for any location. See Starpath Free Ship Reports program

Here is a sample location you can check for the top of Vancouver Island:  50.8N, 128.5W

Note if this does not work and you have followed the instructions, then it might be a mail format issue. This works most dependably with plain text format, ie not html.  For Macs: Mail/Preferences/Composing/Mail Format=Plain text

Again, these are ways to see the actual wind. Later we will add some notes on forecasted winds.

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