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Op-Ed: NOAA Leads the Way for Marine Weather Forecasting

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North Atlantic storm system, right, as depicted on an OPC surface analysis chart (OPC)

By Thomas Cuff 2018-07-27 13:01:17

Lee Chesneau’s recent editorial (“Staffing Shortage Spells Trouble for High Seas Forecasts,” July 25, 2018) regarding NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) fails to acknowledge the high-quality work of our dedicated meteorologists, who deliver about 150 forecasts and warnings each day to keep mariners safe across the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
 
We dispute Chesneau’s assertions of degraded products and services due to staff shortages. Our hiring is outpacing attrition, and we have more staff onboard today than nearly a year ago. In fact, while we actively work to fill only three remaining vacancies, we have produced and delivered every product and marine weather forecast as expected and on time. Meanwhile, we also added a suite of new forecaster-generated 72-hour forecast charts to fill a longstanding gap between our 48 and 96-hour products. 

These enhancements, made after careful and lengthy engagement and input from the maritime community, are important strategic steps to update our product suite to meet the industry’s modern needs.
 
The claim that OPC no longer produces forecaster-generated synoptic forecast charts beyond 48 hours, twice daily, due to a staffing shortfall is also inaccurate. The fact is that OPC has never generated such products at that frequency. Instead, we place our greatest focus on analyzing and predicting maritime weather hazards in the immediate 48 hours.
 
Our relationship with the maritime community is the cornerstone of what we do and how we do it. Our flexibility allows us to meet the demands of this economically significant industry, and our team takes great pride in delivering top-notch service to customers at sea every day. OPC is leveraging NOAA’s national investment in satellites and numerical weather and ocean models to further improve marine forecasts and warnings. We will continue evolving and modernizing alongside the maritime industry we serve.
 
Facing weather at sea is a dangerous proposition, and OPC’s forecasts help mariners make life-saving decisions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Individuals interested in learning more about our mission may contact me directly at Thomas.Cuff@noaa.gov. Please visit us online at ocean.weather.gov for our latest forecasts and warnings.

Thomas Cuff is the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Ocean Prediction Center.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.