High wave action in Long Beach ahead of Tropical Storm...

High wave action in Long Beach ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa's close approach to Long Island on July 9, 2021. Credit: /Johnny Milano

The National Weather Service is asking boaters for feedback on an experimental program to measure waves and ocean conditions.

The National Weather Service in Upton is using forecasts and ocean buoys to measure wave lengths in the Atlantic off the coast of Long Island and along parts of the East Coast. Meteorologists hope the experimental forecast will lead to a better advisory system for boaters and ships traveling in waters off Long Island

“If you’re a boater in a small recreational boat or smaller vessels, they have to worry less about the big swells and more energetic waves rolling on the ocean,” said Nelson Vaz, the weather service’s warning coordinator meteorologist. "A small boat can roll with the waves and go up and down, but with more choppy waves for an extended period, you can get in trouble pretty quickly." 

The program, in place already along the West Coast — which is accustomed to larger waves — tracks a waves' height, the direction it is coming from and its period, which is time it takes for successive waves to pass a fixed point, such as a buoy. A wave's period also tracks how fast they move, how deep they extend into the ocean and how much energy they contain.

Useful to mariners

Chris Squeri, executive director of the New York Marine Trades Association in West Babylon, said the program would be useful to mariners.

"Anybody that's going to run in the ocean, whether it's cruising or whether it's offshore fishing, is going to want more information and better detail about wave height," he said.

The program for the first time would provide details on multiple, coexisting wave groups that coincide at a given point in the ocean — each containing their own unique height, period and direction.

For example, some users may be interested in short period waves moving parallel to the coast because they present hazardous conditions for smaller or flat bottom vessels leaving an inlet, the Weather Service said. Others may be more concerned about long period waves moving toward the shore because they create shoaling risks near the coast, officials said.

Recreational fisherman Russell Guarineri, of Lawrence, said he relied on data from the buoys to make judgment calls on the safety of the waters.

"I don't want to go get beat up so the better forecast I can receive makes it better and safer for everybody," Guarineri said.

Using weather apps

Gary Ramsberger, who owns two boats docked out of Montauk, said he currently relied on two private sector weather apps for wave height and intervals along with wind speed and direction.

"That's pretty much our life up here fishing," Ramsberger said. "It's all weather. I don't even look at if it's gonna rain. It's all wind or wave height."

Off Long Island, the weather service already issues small craft advisories, warning recreation boaters of rough waters with waves reaching between three to five feet and winds of 25 knots or more.

Meteorologists are particularly focused on wave lengths in smaller passage ways like Jones Inlet, where boaters can have trouble navigating large swells of about three feet.

The program is reliant on feedback from boaters to determine if their forecast is accurate and so far have received a positive response from mariners, Vaz said.

“We want to know from mariners, how is this information helping you. How is it helping boaters making decisions on the water? It’s that real life feedback we’re looking for,” Vaz said. “Is the information we’re providing accurate? Is that what you’re seeing out there and how well is forecast working? We’d love to hear back from recreational boaters because these products are meant to give preparedness to boaters with less experience.”

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