Nearshore Wave Prediction System (NWPS):
Then, Now, and the Future of Marine Forecasting
Brian Garcia, Warning Coordination Meteorologist
National Weather Service Forecast Office Monterey
Marine forecasting has seen many iterations through the years, each time building upon the lessons of the prior. The NWS has taken many of those lessons and is again building upon them to create a more robust and accurate wave model, while simultaneously modifying how wave conditions are communicated. Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) led this effort as a proof of concept, from the Weather Forecast Office (WFO) Eureka California (EKA), by utilizing forecaster wind data as the driving force for locally generated waves. This provided a local wave spectrum which allowed for a more accurate and discrete view of the wave environment. Through a successful proof of concept with SWAN at WFO EKA, the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) then became involved to help develop the next generation of SWAN, known as NWPS.
Today EMC is working with many field offices, including WFO EKA, to test, validate, and deploy an operational version of NWPS. Meanwhile, WFO EKA continues to move toward a more modern version of communicating a complex wave environment by leveraging the data that is produced by NWPS. This reimagined way of communicating wave information has shown positive results by providing mariners, beach safety officials, and the general public details of the waves that could impact their operations and/or lives. While the NWS presses toward creating a Weather-Ready Nation (WRN), it is these types of methodologies that should be adopted from the local level to the national and global levels. As the NWS continues to lead the frontier of marine forecasting, accomplishing our mission remains our laser focus.
The future development of NWPS will see a higher level of spatial resolution along the land-sea interface with the introduction of unstructured grids that will allow for more detailed information along complex coastlines. Output from the unstructured grids will continue to be driven by forecaster winds. As wave physics improve and wave models follow, forecasters will likely see a day where their locally generated wind fields feed into a larger system that creates a broad and local scale wave environment that would be as or more accurate than forecaster manipulated wave fields. Messaging and interpretation of the output wave data will then be the crucial element for the forecaster, putting the emphasis on how to effectively describe a complex wave environment, which WFO EKA is currently piloting.
Fundamental changes have occurred in wave modeling, forecasting, and messaging over the last ten years. This trend will continue through the years to come in an effort to save lives and allow for a safe and easily understood marine environment.