3.5 Building a Maritime Weather-Ready Nation

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 9:30 AM
Ballroom E (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Thomas J. Cuff, NOAA/NWS/Ocean Prediction Center, College Park, MD

Nearly $2 trillion worth of imports and exports are transported aboard 60,000 ocean-faring vessels through the nation’s seaports each year, while over 11 million Americans board cruise ships from these same ports annually. Traveling on the open ocean is often treacherous. Hazards such as high winds, large waves, fog, thunderstorms, sea ice, freezing spray, and volcanic ash challenge mariners, threatening the safety of both life and property at sea.

The Ocean Prediction Center (OPC), one of 9 centers comprising the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in the National Weather Service (NWS), provides marine weather forecasts and warnings of hazardous weather over much of the northern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The center’s team of meteorologists, physical scientists, and computer scientists, using as their tools a suite of satellite and in situ observations along with weather and ocean models, collectively apply their hundreds of years of cumulative specialized experience in the maritime environment to provide marine forecasts and critical decision support services for mariners. Along with the National Hurricane Center and NWS weather forecast offices in Hawaii and Alaska, OPC is a key service provider of the U.S. contribution to a global network of weather centers providing support to the International Maritime Organization’s Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, transmitting forecasts and hazardous weather warnings via the World Meteorological Organization’s Marine Broadcast System. These requirements are codified in amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, the origin of which dates back to the 1912 Titanic disaster.

This presentation will focus on OPC’s recently released ambitious strategy for “Achieving a Maritime Weather Ready Nation.” This strategy will guide the center’s evolution through 2021 within the overall NWS strategy to build a Weather Ready Nation. Developed with substantial input from key stakeholders and NWS staff, this strategy sets a course for OPC to further strengthen core partnerships, enhance decision support services, and improve the maritime weather collaborative forecast process. It highlights plans to expand our forecast horizon from the present 4 days to 14 days, collaborate more closely with NWS weather forecast entities as well as those of other Federal agencies and nations, build closer relationships with private sector maritime weather providers, better apply 21st century technology to improve our dissemination, and – most importantly – maintain a workforce second to none in marine weather forecasting.

This plan also incorporates the realignment of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) component of the tri-agency National Ice Center as a key part of OPC. A strategic decision made jointly by leadership at NOAA, the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), and NWS, this ongoing realignment will lead to an integrated approach for marine weather prediction and impact-based decision support services across the Arctic and Antarctic with our Navy and Coast Guard partners, as well as in the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.

The Ocean Prediction Center is committed to our vision of eliminating all weather-related losses of life and property at sea, building a maritime Weather Ready Nation that is ready, responsive, and resilient to extreme weather events at sea.

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