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Changes in NOAA/NWS’s Coastal Waters Forecast to Enhance Wave Detail Reporting

In a bid to enhance maritime safety and provide more comprehensive information to coastal communities, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Weather Service (NWS) has announced significant changes to its Coastal Waters Forecast (CWF). These changes are set to revolutionize wave forecasts, offering a more detailed and nuanced understanding of sea conditions.

Under the current format, wave activity is described in terms of Wind Waves and Swell, with limited information provided regarding height, direction, and period. For example, a typical forecast might read “Wind waves around 2 feet or less. Swell west 2 feet at 12 seconds.” However, the new format will offer a more detailed breakdown, with specific emphasis on the height, direction, and period of all impactful wave systems for at least the first three days of the forecast.

Gone are the terms Wind Wave and Swell; instead, the new format will provide a clearer picture of sea conditions with information such as “Seas around 3 feet. Wave Detail: west 2 feet at 10 seconds and south 1 foot at 15 seconds.”

This shift towards a more detailed wave forecast is expected to bring several benefits. Firstly, it will provide mariners with additional information to better plan routes and operations at sea. By offering insights into both short and long period wave hazards, mariners will be better equipped to navigate more safely through varying sea conditions.

Furthermore, the standardization of the CWF across the National Weather Service will ensure consistency in reporting, simplifying interpretation for users and enhancing overall reliability.

NOAA/NWS has made these changes with the aim of improving safety and decision-making for all those who rely on accurate and timely weather information along the coastlines. The updated Coastal Waters Forecast can be accessed through various channels, including the NOAA/NWS website (, the Watches, Warnings & Advisories (WWA) map on, and most marine band radios utilizing WX Channels 1-7.

The CWF serves as a vital tool for providing comprehensive information about marine weather conditions along coastal areas. Its primary objective is to ensure maritime safety by furnishing accurate and timely forecasts, aiding mariners, including commercial vessels, recreational boaters, fishermen, and other stakeholders, in making informed decisions regarding navigation. The CWF facilitates effective planning and operations by forecasting parameters such as wave heights, and wind speeds, enabling mariners to plan routes and activities while minimizing risks associated with adverse weather..

As NOAA/NWS continues to prioritize the safety and well-being of maritime communities, these changes mark a significant step towards providing the most comprehensive and reliable wave forecasts possible.


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