How To: Studying weather online during a Force 10/11 blow

When you are in Dover weather is the beginning and end of everything. We felt we had a better handle on the coming storm to hit Ireland as we were trying to get a good of idea of what coming toward the Strait.

Everyone in Ireland today knows it’s windy (but really unusually it’s dry, even sunny). The remnants of Hurricane Katya are over Sea Area Rockall. But what you do for a better understanding of it? I’ve written before about how to understand weather forecasts.

And also about using the Marine Buoys to “know before you go”.

Well first I’ll check the MET Eireann sea area forecast. (MET Eireeann also have a nice explanation of terms).

Gale warning: in operation. 
Small craft warning: see gale warning. 
Meteorological situation at 0300: A storm depression 160 nautical miles northwest of Erris Head will track northeastwards. 
Forecast for coasts from Valentia to Rossan Point to Fair Head 
Wind: Southwest gale force 8 to storm force 10. Occasionally reaching violent storm force 11 this morning between Erris Head and Malin Head. Later today, winds will decrease force 7 to strong gale force 9. 
Weather: Scattered showers, some heavy in the north. 
Visibility: Moderate to good. 
Forecast for coasts from Fair Head to Carnsore Point to Valentia and the Irish Sea 
Wind: Southwest force 7 to gale force 8, occasionally reaching strong gale force 9 today. 
Weather: Patchy rain or drizzle, clearing to isolated showers. 
Visibility: Moderate to good, occasionally poor at first. Becoming mainly good today. 
Warning of heavy swell: nil. 
Outlook for a further 24 hours until 0600 Wednesday 14 September 2011: Gale force westerly winds will persist on Tuesday for many sea areas, with strong gales at first in northern sea areas. On Tuesday night, winds will decrease fresh to strong. Further showers, mainly in the north. 

Irish Sea Area Map

Remember you need to know where these areas are for Ireland. For Ireland particularly, as you can see from the Sea Area above, we use Headlands instead of the larger Areas that are used by the UK Met Office Shipping News.

(Last week in Dover for example , we were watching Shannon, Fastnet, Sole, Biscay, Dover, Fitzroy because we were trying to grab any hope/prospects from the big picture).

Oh, by the way, the video of Shakespeare Beach from last week was hugely popular. I had about a thousand views on YouTube. Big Time!

Today I look at the satellite radar and Infrared imagery, something I might only do once a year.

Katya Northwest of Ireland

And of course, M5, the buoy off the South East coast. Today I’ll even look at the hourly data from it, just to see the wind trend and gusts.

M5 hourly data for Hurricane Katya

Note especially the hourly Speed of maximum Wind Gusts, which are up to 49 knots. This means Force 10, Violent Storm.

Another by-the-way: one knot is about 1.15 miles per hour or roughly two kilometres per hour for easy calculation, so those Gust speeds mean approximately 100 kilometres per hour currently.

I keep reminding you of the Beaufort Scale, which I believe and also written about previously with explanation is an ESSENTIAL observational skill for Open Water Swimmers. Knowing at least the lower numbers is a tool that allows you to gauge what you may be able to do and allows you to take other’s observational bias into account. It takes practice to able to read the water. MET Eireann’s page linked above is a nice simple page on the Beaufort Scale. By the way, the Beaufort Scale was the invention of an Irishman over 200 years ago.

All of this is what I do for Ireland. It’s entirely relevant for everywhere else, just learn what your locals buoys are, where to get the Marine forecast. And learn it. Then understand it. Gauge your experience by it.

Older people will remember when TV weather forecasts included the Synoptic (Pressure) Charts. These are still the basis of understanding weather.

Last night’s synoptic chart. I’m going to do a separate post on this.

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