On February 7th, winds were far stronger (up to 42 in gusts) along the coastal waters from Jupiter to Ft. Pierce.
The marine forecast called for 15 to 20 knots, so I emailed the National Weather Service to complain.
The response was excellent and there is actually a number to call top provide observations. Here it is in its entirety:
Hi Capt. Mike Conner,
National Weather Service (NWS) HQ forwarded me your email today. I'm the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at NWS Melbourne, FL. Thank you for your feedback.
Our marine forecast area extends from Flagler Beach to Jupiter inlet, from the intracoastal waters to 60 nm offshore. I assume your email was in reference to the forecast for these waters.
I have reviewed the forecasts and available data from February 7 and agree that the forecast likely should have been updated to account for higher winds and wind gusts.
That said, let me explain the issues at hand, then offer a suggestion that I hope you will consider to help us improve future marine forecasts.
The areal size of the coastal waters that we forecast for and broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio are very large. For example, over 80 miles north/south, from the Brevard County coast to 20 miles offshore. The wind and sea forecasts attempt to be as accurate as possible, while remaining as representative as possible for the entire area.
The 1025 AM forecast on Feb 7 for this area was:
.THIS AFTERNOON...SOUTHEAST WINDS 10 TO 15 KNOTS BECOMING
SOUTHWEST 15 TO 20 KNOTS LATE. SEAS 3 TO 4 FEET WITH A DOMINANT
PERIOD 5 SECONDS. A MODERATE CHOP DEVELOPING ON THE INTRACOASTAL
WATERS. CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND ISOLATED STORMS.
The only marine weather observation we have comes from Buoy 41009, located 20 nm east of Cape Canaveral. Between 7am and 5pm on Feb. 7, winds at Buoy 41009 ranged between 2 and 14 knots, with gusts between 2 and 18 knots. At central Florida airport observation sites near the coast however, winds picked up between 11am and 2pm and reached 15 to 22 knots, with frequent gusts between 20 and 30 knots, as well as a few gusts between 30 to 35 knots. The forecasters on duty did not believe conditions were favorable for these strong winds to occur away from the immediate coastline.
The forecast cited above indicates the trend of increasing winds too late (late afternoon versus mid day) and while representative of the "average" winds across the Brevard County coastal waters (coast to 20 miles offshore), it certainly was not representative of the very strong wind gusts which occurred near-shore. In retrospect, the marine forecast likely should have been updated to include mention of the (much) higher wind and wind gusts near shore, while still mentioning the (much) weaker wind and wind gusts offshore. If the high wind gusts only occurred for a short period of time or were confined to a small area, it's understandable that the forecast might not account for the impact, but given that in this case, the high winds occurred along the entire coast and lasted for several hours, changes can be made to reduce the chance of this happening again. Specifically, I will review this particular case with our marine forecasters, and ensure that they account for such significant near-shore impacts in the future.
Also, since we have only one buoy in our forecast area (20 nm east of Cape Canaveral), it is often very difficult to determine what the true wind/sea conditions are away from the immediate coast and away from the buoy. We are always on the lookout for additional marine weather observations as they directly help improve the quality of the forecasts. For that reason, we have made available a special 24-hour a day phone line specifically for mariners to provide us observations or to ask about a forecast. We especially would like to hear from mariners when the forecast is not accurate, so that we can update the forecast, if necessary. The more observations we receive, the better the forecasts will be. Our 24-hour marine forecaster line is 1.800.683.4468 X242. While I understand that you may not always be within cell phone range while at sea, we would appreciate hearing from you as soon as you can call us.
I hope this information helps explain the situation a little and I again would like to thank you for the feedback. I wish we heard from more mariners - to allow us to improve our marine forecasts further.
Also, please feel free to contact me directly anytime. My contact information is at the bottom of this email.
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