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Introduction to Coastal Weather

April 13, 2019

Most of us are involved in some type of weather prediction, whether planning a long trip, a weekend cruise or a backyard barbecue. Often we are only concerned with local effects so that we can avoid (or take advantage of) rapidly changing conditions. The course will cover interpretation of weather maps, satellite images and marine weather forecasts – “the big picture” – but will concentrate on local observations which we can all make. Changes in cloud sequences, temperature, dew point, and barometric pressure are usually the best (and often the only) indicators of our own local short term prospects.

A working knowledge of wind, fog, waves, tides and tidal currents is important to all of us who spend much time on or near the water. A brief summary of tidal theory (without the differential equations) will use Long Island Sound, the Race, and Fishers Island Sound as examples. Prediction of local winds and wind shifts, although important in all weather analysis, is particularly evident over water when the sea surface temperature, the local air temperature and the land surface temperature are very different.  These differences can cause convective instability and (together with dew point) are useful for fog prediction. The associated cloud patterns also indicate the location and direction of the local gusts, lulls and wind shifts which accompany this instability.

Key elements that will be covered in the course will include:

  • Introduction to global weather, nomenclature, what you will need to make observations
  • Local observations, sources of information, weather maps and forecasts, water vapor cycles
  • Introduction to synoptic scale forecasting, air masses, fronts, polar front, and the polar jet stream
  • Observations, cloud identification, changing clouds and cloud sequences
  • Observations (casual and systematic);  Identifying storm conditions and general rules for short term prediction

Course is taught by LT. Walter O’Donnell, a former navigation instructor from the U.S. Navy. Class will meet in the Susan P. Howell Classroom, below the Treworgy Planetarium.