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Marine Weather and Wave Information for the Arctic

(from ASMA Report 2009)


Marine Weather Information for the Arctic

Modern weather information, including information for shipping, is based on numerical models. Numerical weather prediction analyses and forecasts are available for the Arctic from all of the major meteorological centers that run global models. States having the need for more detailed information for the Arctic areas have implemented high resolution models covering the Arctic region according to their needs.

In addition, Arctic coastal states provide marine weather information for their coastal waters. In most cases information for shipping is issued for large areas extending well offshore. Within the coverage of INMARSAT Global Maritime Distress Safety System transmissions, marine safety information in the form of gale and storm warnings is in place consistent with all other high sea areas in the world. However, no responsibility has yet been assigned for the high seas regions of the Arctic outside the coverage of INMARSAT, although an initiative is underway to do so by the World Meteorological Organization. Several states have offered to issue and/or prepare weather information for the Arctic. Progress in this initiative is expected and routine weather bulletins for the high Arctic areas may be in place in a few years. Prediction of the development and paths of lows giving rise to high winds is of particular concern for Arctic shipping. Accurate forecasts of sea ice, wave height, wind direction and speed, visibility, temperature and superstructure icing are the most important routine forecast parameters for shipping - with at least the same accuracy and timeliness requirements as on the other oceans.

Although weather forecasts for the Arctic are based on the same tools using the same techniques as in other areas of the world, the scarcity of observations in the Arctic makes the monitoring of the weather more difficult than in areas with more observations. Meteorological observations in the Arctic rely on drifting buoys placed on top of the sea ice. A new generation of buoys that will withstand multiple freeze-thaw cycles is currently under development and is urgently needed to provide surface observations in the Arctic Ocean. The ability to measure the conditions of the atmosphere and ocean from satellites is, however, developing rapidly and, with adequate surface validation, the quality of weather forecasts will approach the quality used in other areas.

Wave Information for the Arctic

Because of the ubiquitous presence of sea ice, waves have not been a major navigational hazard in the Arctic. However, with less sea ice to dampen the waves, this will no longer be the case in the future. Wave information is typically packaged along with marine weather information in sea ice-free areas. New operational modeling capability will be needed to deal with a partial ice cover and its effect on wave generation and transmission. Buoys that measure the wave heights and directions are essential for model validation but none of these exist in the Arctic for operational reporting. Because of the necessity to deal with winter ice, a new generation of buoys will have to be developed.


    Arctic Council, 2009, Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), Arctic Council.©