92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Wednesday, 25 January 2012: 4:30 PM
Composite Weather Patterns Associated with U.S. Rip Current Deaths and Injuries
Room 333 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Charles H. Paxton, NOAA/NWS, Tampa Bay Area - Ruskin, FL; and J. M. Collins, J. Colson, and N. Vaz

Rip currents, a circulation pattern of accumulated water from waves rapidly flowing back out to sea through narrow channels in the surf zone, pose a significant threat to people in ocean waters. Reports of rip current deaths and injuries for 1994-2009 were collected from the National Climatic Data Center's Storm Data. Florida had far more rip current victims than any other state. Nearly 95 percent of victims were male, and about 10 percent of rip current deaths were rescuers trying to save a victim. The primary factors associated with rip current formation are variations in the local beach bathymetry, longshore waves of varying height, and lower tidal stages. Identifying the typical patterns associated with rip currents in numerical model forecasts may enable forecasters to provide more lead time for ocean rescue services to plan for staffing. Composite analyses of winds and sea level pressure patterns will be presented for days and locations with rip current deaths and/or injuries in waters surrounding the 48 contiguous states. The composites were created starting four days before the event through the day of the event. The composites indicate weather patterns were more constant at lower latitudes where the subtropical high pressure systems dominate. At higher latitudes, the weather patterns were typically a combination of semi-permanent high pressure and migrating areas of low pressure.

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