Sea Science: by Jordanna Sheermohamed
In a land-loving lifestyle, an increasing dependency on the incessant beeps and boops of technologically driven weather forecasts is a given. Text alerts of incoming rain and other weather notifications from hyper-local forecasting services using information likely crowd-sourced from everyday citizen scientists now afford most people “instant gratification” weather updates.
Once land is left behind, however, the ability to maintain the frequency of pings significantly drops, even when satellite service is in place. It becomes important to remember the basic foundations of the scientific method: observation and data collection.
Basic weather parameters can be measured with just a few tools, all considered useful to a seafaring adventure. Temperatures, pressure, wind and humidity values are some of the most important parts of weather data that are necessary to monitor on board.
Thermometers are usually the primary weather instrument, as temperatures and their trend measurements can indicate what to expect next, weather-wise. This can be relative to both air and ocean temperatures, which can often indicate where small scale-to-regional currents may be located.
Downward, upward or insignificant pressure trends, measured by a barometer, help to indicate whether conditions are expected to further deteriorate, improve or remain unchanged, respectively. A barometer is probably the most important weather instrument to have on board, as its measurements provide more details about the atmosphere than any other instrument.
General local conditions, as well as regional seasonal patterns, can help to anchor a forecast’s baseline. Pressure and winds are inversely related, meaning as one goes up the other goes down; consider how the lower the pressure of a hurricane, the stronger the winds. Therefore, pressure measurements are a vital way of remaining safe during extended journeys in open waters, including the ability to plan ahead for safe harbors en route.
Winds are the weather parameter that directly impacts both a yacht’s speed and quality of ride. Wind magnitude, which indicates both speed and direction, will determine local sea state conditions, as well as surface currents. In fact, the Beaufort Scale is a secondary, derived tool for wind that allows for the estimation of wind speed by the observed appearance of the water surface. From these crude estimations to mast-mounted anemometers, gauging the wind is a primary concern out on the water.
Humidity value, as it relates to dew and moisture in and around yachting exteriors, can be another important parameter, as this helps crew to prepare accordingly. Low-level wind speeds will also affect humidity values, aiding in both the relocation and mixing of air masses.
Combining data from one or two tools can further increase the ability to make an even more accurate forecast. After all, weather is ultimately all things temperature- and moisture-related. Where the heat and moisture go, the “action” follows.
Safety aside, both transit and leisure time are directly related to weather conditions on a yacht. The ability to plan ahead accordingly is critical in creating the ultimate experience for yacht guests, as well as crew.
Jordanna Sheermohamed is president and lead meteorologist of Weather Forecast Solutions, a weather-forecasting firm (WeatherForecastSolutions.com). Comments are welcome below.