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Starpath Standards in Marine Weather

Needless to say, it is important that readers — as well as the teachers and authors — know what it is that we want to teach. Usually such criteria are referred to as standards. These "standards" are the guidelines we use to organize topics and the certification process. For the most part, they are just a minimum list of facts, subjects, or skills that should be known. They are characterized in general terms below and then itemized under each of the topic headings used in the course.

The Basic Standard means that level of knowledge of marine weather required for safe operation of vessels in typical conditions including those of typical bad weather conditions. Generally this standard includes basic terminology, descriptions, and behavior of common weather systems, and an understanding of the content and use of basic resources including printed and radio sources. Specific examples are given in the itemization by topic that follows. Every vessel of any size that travels beyond sheltered waters away from immediate refuge should have a working knowledge of marine weather at the level of the Basic Standard.

The Advanced Standard adds to the Basic Standard the goal of efficient use of weather information as well as the treatment of more specialized circumstances. It also includes more on the principles behind the processes at least insofar as they add to the practical application of the information. This standard includes the expert use of all weather resources available, including the use of codes. Knowledge of marine weather on the level of the Advanced Standard should be comparable to that of professional ships' officers who are actively involved in the application of marine weather to the navigation of their vessels. In addition, this standard includes a definite sailing vessel component, including the tactical use of weather maps for selecting optimum sailing routes.


Basic Advanced
1. Intro, philosophy, and goals
  • Why learn marine weather
  • What can we learn
  • What are reasonable goals
  • What are the most important aspects of marine weather
  • Fundamental science versus practical knowledge
1. Intro, philosophy, and goals
  • Basic and Advanced are the same in this topic
2. Units and Conversions
  • pressure, temperature, distance, and speed
  • speed-time-distance computations
  • great circle and rhumbline concepts
  • basic DR
  • time and time zone conversions
2. Units and Conversions
  • more complex conversion problems
  • special units
3. Air Masses and the Atmosphere
  • Air mass definitions and abbreviations
  • Regions of origin
  • general structure of the atmosphere
  • boundaries as fronts
3. Air Masses and the Atmosphere
  • stability
  • subclasses of air masses
  • front and High formation
  • specific properties of the atmosphere
  • the standard atmosphere
4. Pressure and Barometers
  • pressure gradient and wind speed
  • use of aneroid barometer, elevation and parallax corrections
  • Isobars and their map depiction, Buys Ballot's law
  • basics of barometer as forecaster
  • properties of Highs and Lows, ridges and troughs
4. Pressure and Barometers
  • use and value of absolute pressures
  • barometer calibrations
  • diurnal variation
  • specifics in barometer use in forecasting
  • evaluation of weather maps using pressure
  • geostrophic wind computations
5. Behavior of Wind
  • wind terminology (veer, backing, wind names)
  • Wind flow around Highs and Lows
  • effects of surface friction
  • true wind from apparent wind, apparent wind instrumentation
  • wind changes with altitude
  • force of the wind, general picture of the winds aloft
5. Behavior of Wind
  • apparent wind from true wind
  • wind speed from isobar spacing
  • true wind instrumentation
  • more detailed knowledge of winds aloft
6. Clouds
  • basic cloud types (genera)
  • classification by heights and shapes
  • distinction between stratoform and cumuliform (layered vs. heaped)
  • basic rules on cloud meanings to marine weather
6. Clouds
  • cloud species and features
  • significance of various cloud forms
  • evolution and sequencing of clouds
  • causes and significance of various cloud shapes
7. Fronts
  • general structure of fronts and frontal systems
  • clouds, wind, rain, and pressure behavior at fronts
  • fundamentals of frontal motion
7. Fronts
  • frontal systems as waves
  • evolution of frontal waves and occlusions
  • more specific behavior of fronts
  • pressure patterns with passing fronts
  • fronts in the SH
  • fronts and satellite photos
8. Lows and hurricanes
  • properties of Lows compared to Highs
  • wind and weather in and around Lows
  • cloud patterns
  • hurricane zones and statistics
8. Lows and hurricanes
  • formation of Lows
  • evolution of frontal systems and secondary Lows
  • description and behavior of topical cyclones
  • forecasting tropical cyclones
9. Squalls and lightning
  • description of squalls as convective cells
  • general description of winds in a squall
  • rain as a sign of development
  • Rule No. 1 in forecasting
  • description of lightning
  • lightning protection
  • basic lightning statistics
9. Squalls and lightning
  • specific local winds near squalls
  • cloud indicators of squall formation
  • squall maneuvering
  • effects of lightning strikes
  • wx map depiction of thunderstorms (doldrums)
10. Fog and humidity
  • dew point and relative humidity
  • sea fog versus radiation fog
  • visibility and luminous range
10. Fog and humidity
  • other sources of fog (frontal fog, arctic smoke)
  • lapse rate
  • stability of the atmosphere
11. Wind and terrain
  • concept of land's influence and local winds
  • basics of sea and land breezes
  • gap winds, katabatic winds
  • general concepts of wind shadows and funneling
  • behavior of gusts, corner effect, wind shifts near shore
  • lee trough (California trough)
  • sources of local knowledge
11. Wind and terrain
  • details and application of the basic concepts
  • prominent examples around the world
12. Specific winds
  • general descriptions of global circulation
  • trade winds, doldrums, roaring forties, prevailing westerlies
  • polar easterlies, monsoons
12. Specific winds
  • details of the various global wind patterns
  • prominent local winds around the world
  • winds aloft
13. Sea state
  • definitions of height, length, period, steepness, speed
  • fetch limitations
  • swells versus waves
  • Beaufort scale
  • significant wave height
  • effect of current on wave steepness
13. Sea state
  • statistics of wave distributions
  • sea state forecasting
  • extreme storm waves (rogue waves)
14. Shipboard forecasting
  • fundamental significance of basic natural indicators:
  • wind speed, wind direction, barometer, clouds, and sea state
  • combining natural signs with official forecasts to obtain the best picture
  • of the weather situation
14. Shipboard forecasting
  • combining the various signs in special circumstances
  • more details on the natural signs
  • signs of approaching tropical cyclones
  • storm avoidance maneuvering
15. Fax maps and satellites
  • understanding of basic fax maps services and products
  • fundamentals of wx map reading
  • basic description of satellite communications
15. Fax maps and satellites
  • use of SSB radios
  • details of fax map reception
  • detailed use of surface analysis and forecasts
  • sea state maps, winds aloft (500 mb maps)
  • use of onboard instrumentation to evaluate surface maps
  • use of satellite photos
16. Sources
  • VHF radio
  • High seas voice reports
  • Coast Pilot and Sailing Directions
  • Basic radiofax services
16. Sources
  • Mariner's weather Log, NAVTEX , worldwide sources of radiofax
  • maps and text via INMARSAT
  • weather routing services
  • Morse code weather
  • MAREPs
  • SafetyNet
17. Codes and forms
  • Know they exist, who uses them, and why
17. Codes and forms
  • use of WMO wx observations code FM 13-IX for form B-81
  • use of IAC surface analysis code FM 46.D
  • use of NWS forecast code MAYFOR
  • solve USCG coding problems
18. Ice at sea
  • basics of icing
  • where and when could ice be encountered
  • basic sources of info on ice navigation
  • basic sources of info on ice data
18. Ice at sea
  • icing rates and conditions
  • ice terminology
  • weather in and near the ice
  • basics of ice navigation
  • sources of ice data
19. Sailing tactics
  • relative positions when tacking in uniform conditions
  • polar diagrams
  • lifts and headers
  • progress to weather
  • optimum course downwind
19. Sailing tactics
  • optimum course in changing conditions
  • ocean route planning
  • new heading after jibe to same apparent wind angle
  • evaluating ocean race course positions
  • use of clouds to gage wind shifts
20. Southern Hemisphere weather
  • distinctions between NH and SH wind flow
  • general description of SH winds and weather
20. Southern Hemisphere weather
  • specific SH winds and weather
  • speed of lows and fronts in Roaring Forties
  • SH sources of wx info
  • what is reversed and what isn't
21. Weather and the Nav Rules
  • Rule 2—responsibility and good seamanship
  • Rule 3—definition of restricted visibility, proper watch, safe speed,
  • concept of collision risk
  • Rule 19—conduct in restricted visibility, basics
21. Weather and the Nav Rules
  • Rule 19—conduct in restricted visibility, all aspects
  • concept of close quarters
  • use of radar in general