Questions and answers about the OPC and marine weather forecasting
How well did the Ocean Prediction Center forecast "the Perfect
The storm was quite well predicted by the marine forecasters at
the OPC. About a day in advance, a "dangerous" storm warning was issued.
The term "dangerous" was very rarely used at that time and when
it was employed it was usually after the fact. One of the
changes OPC made since "the Perfect Storm" has been to use terms such
as "dangerous" or "very violent" to describe unusual situations,
when appropriate, to get the mariners' attention.
Was there a Ocean Prediction Center back in 1991?
The OPC also formerly known as the Marine Prediction Center had not yet been formed in 1991, but there was its
predecessor the Satellite and Marine Section of the National
Weather Service. It consisted of about 12
marine forecasters who produced their forecasts primarily in a
text format although there was some graphical material produced
for the Pacific Ocean.
How many forecasters make up the OPC today?
The OPC now consists of 20 marine forecasters staffing four desks
24 hours per day 7 days per week. Anyone who visits the OPC
comes away with the understanding of the strong sense of
dedication these forecasters have to providing the best possible
warnings and forecasts to the mariners who traverse the world's
bodies of water.
What marine forecast advances have been made since 1991?
There have been great advances in ocean wave forecasting due to
the development of improved wave models. Also, the accuracy of
atmospheric models three to five days into the future has
improved significantly. New methods of display on sophisticated
workstations have permitted us to understand and interpret model
output better than ever. Another important change has been that OPC
expanded its product suite to include a large number of graphical
(radiofacsimile) forecasts out to 96 hours. These all translate
into superior products for mariners. The advent of satellite-based
wind observations such as from scatterometers, although
incomplete in coverage, have allowed us to determine initial
conditions in storms more accurately. All this has resulted in more
accurate forecasts further into the future for the mariner.
What technology advances are in store?
We are looking forward to higher-resolution and more accurate
atmospheric and oceanic-wave models and more extensive coverage
from satellite-based wind and other observations. New OPC
products are under consideration such as longer-range graphical
wave charts and storm-track forecasts. Improvements in
communications technology are on the horizon, particularly in the
area of the satellite communication of graphical forecasts to
ships at sea. Additionally, OPC will continue to take advantage
of evolving Internet capabilities to make all its products as
widely available as possible.