85th AMS Annual Meeting

Monday, 10 January 2005: 10:45 AM
Rip current training for coastal forecasters
Kevin Fuell, UCAR/COMET, Boulder, CO; and K. Olson and T. Schott
Poster PDF (276.2 kB)
Since 1990, the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training (COMET) has been conducting residence courses and delivering distance learning materials to support the integration of science into the operational forecast process. With NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) as its core sponsor, COMET has produced Web-based training on many aspects of weather forecasting including, hydrology, aviation, fire weather, various mesoscale phenomena, numerical model prediction, and satellite meteorology. In the mid-1990s COMET produced its first marine training delivered via laser disc and later converted it to CD-ROM. The focus of this marine training effort was primarily offshore issues in deep water. Recently, COMET has been working to update this material and make it available on the Web. In late 2003 the NWS Marine Services Branch approached COMET about creating training for the near-shore environment to support its new Surf Zone Forecast product.

The United States Lifesaving Association (USLA) statistics show that approximately 80% of their rescues are related to rip currents. In May 2004, the NWS in partnership with USLA and NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program began a national public safety campaign about rip currents. Simultaneously, the NWS and COMET started development of distance learning modules to increase the rip current forecast skills of the coastal operational meteorologist. COMET is working with NWS staff to produce four modules related to rip currents: 1) NWS Mission and Partnerships, 2) Nearshore Fundamentals, 3) Rip Current Forecasting, and 4) Regionalized Case Studies.

The first module is a short recorded expert lecture known as a Webcast. It discusses the overall characteristics and hazards of rip currents as well as the cooperative roles of the NWS, USLA and Sea Grant. While all users would benefit from the lecture, it may be especially relevant to coastal forecast office management staff and anyone else who needs to understand the “big picture” related to rip current threats. The second module is intended to fill the knowledge gap about the nearshore environment that is common among many forecasters without oceanography expertise. It includes a detailed look at the structure of the surf zone and of rip currents using innovative 3-D animations. The third module in the sequence will train the coastal forecaster how to predict the occurrence of rip currents primarily using ocean model output as there is typically little to no observational data in the coastal zone. The fourth and final piece of the rip current training highlights Forecast Offices with established rip current forecast programs and examines multiple rip current events along the East Coast using a case study approach. It further includes supporting cases from other geographical areas.

We will examine the need for rip current training for NWS coastal forecasters. The scope of these various modules and their main instructional goals will also be discussed. The graphics and conceptual animations that support these goals will be showcased to demonstrate the types of materials that have been lacking in the coastal community.

Supplementary URL: http://meted.ucar.edu