Treacherous, frozen latitudes becoming hot destinations

Once upon a time, the ideal yachting expedition would involve calm seas, warm breezes and smooth sailing. The yachting season would follow the global circuit of chasing the sun and festivals, with promises of balmy nights and sun-soaked days. Now, however, extreme destinations are becoming a popular alternative for those who want their morning coffee served with a side of adrenaline. While the treacherous conditions may require the heartiest of captains and crew, the rewards of exciting adventure and exquisite landscapes are drawing many to the rugged ends of the Earth.

Some of the most obvious and immediate dangers of yachting through such high-latitude regions are the screaming winds and high seas associated with passing low pressure systems, but this does not discount other difficulties such as frigid temperatures, little or no available assistance in the event of emergency, drifting ice and thick, blinding fog.

When it comes to the volatile weather in the North polar regions, storm systems piggy back on the eastern-racing jet stream. When these systems reach the Eastern Seaboard and move offshore into the open Atlantic, they are often energized by the warm tropical waters hitchhiking along the Gulf Stream. These systems can often produce conditions in excess of 40-knot winds and 20-foot seas, with one storm after the next for months on end. The summer months are the best bet for lengthier breaks between storm systems, but no season is immune to nature’s fury. Taking into consideration a yacht’s top speed, maneuvering around the rapidly deteriorating sea state may prove to be challenging, and obtaining weather intelligence prior to departing is well-advised.

The infamous Northwest Passage, which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic waters around Greenland and through Canada, offers an alternative route that shaves off a considerable amount of time from the normal route.  With diminishing ice volume in the region, the waters have become more navigable, and were most recently crossed in 2016 by the cruise ship Crystal Serenity, which took 28 days.

Looking toward extreme destinations in the Southern Hemisphere, the subantarctic islands to the south of New Zealand and South America can be the destination or merely a stop along the way to the actual Antarctic continent itself. The conditions in this region of the world tend to remain hostile year-round. Minimal land mass in the Southern Hemisphere allows for storm systems to travel thousands of miles uninterrupted. With little to no frictional effects of land to slow these winds, storms are able to maintain their edge, giving way to the nicknames associated with their line of latitude, such as the “Roaring Forties,” “Furious Fifties,” and “Screaming Sixties.” Long-range swells associated with these winds make the higher latitude Southern Hemisphere seas very tumultuous.

Whether it’s the promise of isolation that draws the visitor, as the more common yachting circuit may yield congested harbors and ports, or the promise of nightly auroras and glowing, moonlit glaciers, extreme destinations are on the rise. Seafarer, beware – it is not for the faint of heart.

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Sea Science: Weather Lore Jibes With Modern Science

Before the invention and integration of high-tech weather instruments such as satellites, radar, and computer models, individuals often used environmental observations to determine impending weather. At a recent lunch with retired Captain Terry Pope, the topic of historical seafaring methods of weather prediction came up. For example, captains sometimes kept an elderly sailor on board whose rheumatic pains could warn of incoming low pressure or rain.

Many weather proverbs were born of natural observations, with sailors and farmers adding credibility to their catchiness. It turns out that examining these sayings through a scientific lens actually proves that one really can trust the great salty grandfathers of the high seas.

One of the most well-known of these sayings is “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” In order to make sense of this proverb, there are a couple of scientific points to understand: the vertical direction of air during high/low pressures, the general movement of weather patterns from west to east, and how the human eye perceives the specific colors of visible light.

Of all the colors of the visible light spectrum, red has the longest wavelength and violet has the shortest. Therefore, when traveling long distances or through a region of atmospheric contaminants, such as dust or pollution, the shorter wavelength colors are scattered while the longer wavelength colors make it through. This is often why we see red and orange at sunset, when the sun is lowest on the horizon and the light has to travel the farthest.  This also explains why the sun appears white during noontime hours; the sun’s position directly overhead means the light has the shortest distance to travel, with all colors effectively making the journey to the human eye. Another way to understand this concept is by observing something in the dark. The object doesn’t change color, but the human eye is unable to perceive it because of the absence of light, so it appears black.

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The warm colors of sunset are a resultant of the longer wavelengths associated with reds, oranges, and yellows.

With the sun setting to the west, red color indicates sinking/drier air associated with an incoming high pressure, which prohibits the rising air and upward cloud development that lead to thunderstorms. Conversely, a red sunrise to the east indicates the high pressure is to the east of an observer’s position, meaning a relatively low pressure is located to the west.  The rising air associated with a low pressure instigates clouds that, with enough vertical ascent, lead to the potential for stormy weather.

Another useful proverb, “Mackerel skies and mares’ tails make tall ships carry low sails,” scientifically makes the grade as well.

The names of clouds are often a Latin derivation that describe the clouds’ pattern, the type of particles they contain or their height in the atmosphere. Clouds are a useful way for an observer to determine the state of the atmosphere at a given time. In Latin, cirrus means “curl” and cumulus means “mass or pile.” So when cirrocumulus clouds are observed in tandem with cirrus clouds, it generally indicates convection occurring at high altitudes, and usually precedes rain within a day.

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Cirrocumulus clouds are often referred to “mackerel sky” for their resemblance to the fish’s scales.

Cirrocumulus clouds also appear quite similar to the scales of a mackerel fish, and cirrus clouds are much like the strands of a mare’s tail, so this saying delivers a general warning to lower the sails, as the higher winds associated with thunderstorms are impending.

“A wind from the south, has rain in its mouth” is a third axiom that jibes with sound science. Winds will always move from high to low pressure, so a breeze from the south will indicate a high pressure is situated to the south or southeast of a location, blowing towards a lower pressure located somewhere to the north or northwest.

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Winds will move from high to low pressure.

Since low pressure induces rising air, cloud formation becomes possible.  With enough moisture and rising air, storm development occurs, increasing the possibility of precipitation. Another useful fact to consider is that the faster clouds move, the more imminent the ​arrival of a frontal boundary associated with an advancing low pressure.

Accurate and long-range weather forecasts depend on technology. Without its aid, the time frame for a credible forecast drastically drops from five days to about 24-48 hours. Even so, it’s good to know that if modern weather forecasting tools are unavailable or not working for some reason, a pretty credible weather forecast can still be produced by simply turning to the sky.

This article was published in our monthly column within The Triton newspaper (Nautical News for Captain and Crews), and can additionally be found here.

Weather Routing For Your Yachting Needs

Beautiful boats, gorgeous skies, and that yacht life ambiance fully in place  at the 2017 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

We at Weather Forecast Solutions provide can provide your yacht with both images and forecast analyses to help you safely get from point A to B.  Interested?  Let’s talk!

 

Category 5 Hurricane Irma Update – 09-05-17 [3:00 ET]

09-05-17
3:00 ET
#Irma [16.9 N / 59.1 W]
 
Irma is now a category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.
 
Things are starting to feel real, for all living in the Lesser Antilles, as the threat nears tonight and tomorrow. Rain bands are bringing in showers and winds of 20mph are already in place, only to get stronger into this evening and here on out.
 
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For those of us in the mainland U.S., preparation should be underway. By this, i mean gathering your supplies or making the decision in how to execute your plan.
 
1) Knowing where your local shelter is, especially if you need to bring pets. Not all shelters are pet-friendly.
 
2) If you are under an evacuation, where you would go;
 
3) Knowing where your important documents [medical, insurance, mortgages, etc] are located;
 
4) obtaining a refill in prescriptions if needed
 
There is still no way to tell you if this is going to hit Florida, or even where in FL. There is still model disagreement towards the final land-falling location. Some have it turning a hard right and bumping up along the East Coast (much like Matthew did last year) and heading towards GA/SC, some having it turning and running north, right through the spine of the state. Others still indicate the hard right turn through the Everglades and along the western half of the state. The point being that no one can still tell you exactly where, yet.
 
HOWEVER, understand this important thought: This system is large. The eye is about 30-35 miles wide. As of earlier this morning, hurricane force winds were extending out about 50 miles from the center. Tropical storm force winds were extending out 150 miles. Florida is only about 110 miles wide. Regardless of your exact location,the likelihood is that at a minimum, tropical storm force winds are in play in your area.
 
And again, while no one can tell you where, what you can actually see, are emergency managers springing into action, friends and neighbors pulling together to make sure each other stay informed, and there is a reason for this. Preparation is going to be key, because by the time we know for sure where landfall is, it will likely be too late to leave.
 
More to come…
Satellite animations available on our FB page: https://goo.gl/PQeTpf

Irma on the Mind???

Current position [18.5 N / 45.9 W]

First thing first. there is still A LOT of variation that can occur 7 days out! So this briefing isn’t to serve as a forecast, but as an explanation as to the components in play.

 

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TRACK:
For the last few days, we’ve been waiting to see how far S and W Irma’s trajectory would dip. Like a ball that must bounce downwards before it bounces upwards, we’ve been closely watching the expected S and W dip that Irma is undergoing this weekend. The system is expected to begin it’s more northward trajectory on Mon/Tue, and therefore a narrowing of potential outcomes will only begin then. And no that doesn’t mean the final answer will appear, but a better picture will be revealed.

Now that WSW motion is indeed in place, but it initiated slightly higher north than previously modeled. A hurricane’s position is a result of the eye location, and to put it plainly, Irma’s been acting pretty shifty-eyed. The reason for this is the multiple occurrences of EWRC [eye-wall replacement cycles]: This is when a larger eye forms around an established eye. The larger eye “chokes” off the necessary moisture and the inner eye collapses. This process does weaken or prohibits further intensification during the process, but it is usually followed by a re-strengthening once the process is complete. So if the location of the eye is slightly changing, then it stands to reason that the point of where we measure it’s S and W movement also shifts.

If you’re following the models, remember that one release does NOT indicate certainty. You’re looking for consistency from run-to-tun. The GFS (American model) comes out 4 times a day. The European model is released twice a day.

VARIABLES:
Now as mentioned prior, there are many variables that will affect the trajectory of this system: The position of a high pressure located N/NE of the system, an upper level low located to the NW of the system, high and low pressure placement over the U.S. 6-8 days from now, and Irma’s interaction with any landmasses along the way or regions of increased wind shear [how winds change with height].

INTENSITY:
Three major factors are behind Irma’s current intensity, with the first two working against:
1) Its location in a region of cooler SST’s [sea surface temperatures], but by only about 1-2 degrees cooler than what’s consider tropical fuel.
2) Drier air ahead of the system is slightly wrapping into the inner regions, which dampens cloud/thunderstorm development.

But in the ‘ole gal’s favor is that its in a region of
3) Weaker vertical wind shear of about [10-15 kts] is a hurricane’s dream, as it does not destroy the thunderstorms from building vertically but still provides enough shift to keep the circulation in place.

But….Irma is moving into a region of higher SST’s (pro), moister (pro) air, and higher shear (con).
Considering all involved, further intensification is likely.

OUTCOME: For those in the U.S, take a deep breath, and consider tightening up your hurricane plans, because come next week, the time will come to either 1) pull the trigger or 2) exhale and consider yourself to have conquered yet another week during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

But if you’re asking, “What would YOU do”, well, on this end, supplies are in place; because why not. Because what better way to actually relax this labor day weekend than to know whatever happens next week, as the picture sharpens, things are in place now. [Think of people who waited until the last minute to find solar eclipse glasses; how well did that work out?]

So, stay tuned, stay aware, and DO NOT buy into the hype anytime over the next 2 days.

 

For latest satellite animation, visit us on FB: 

Lessons from El Faro: Forecasts Can’t Guarantee Safety

See the latest Weather Forecast Solutions article at The Maritime Executive magazine about the recently released National Transportation Safety Board report on weather findings surrounding the 2015 sinking of the El Faro during Hurricane Joaquin.

Weather Forecasts Alone Can’t Guarantee Safety

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Hurricane Joaquin (USCG / NOAA)

Boating Conditions Along Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic

For all the #boaters in the [aquatic] house, increased conditions in vicinity of [20-25 kts] winds and [4-6 ft] seas behind the frontal boundary [white line] in the NW Gulf of Mexico.

SWH Analysis

These increases will continue to propagate eastward through the Gulf through early Tuesday, arriving along the East Gulf waters by Monday afternoon. Strong northerly winds will continue to build in behind the boundary, likely remaining in and around [10-15 kts] through early Monday morning.

Elsewhere, southerly flow along the U.S. East coast will continue to increase through midweek, with sea heights additionally increasing beyond [6 ft] as the weak low off the East Coast of #Florida lifts northwards and towards the #MidAtlantic.

NOTE: Img indicates significant wave heights in ft and winds in kts.