The Challenges of Observing and Forecasting the Conditions on the Gulf Stream

Joe Sienkiewicz
  28 Jan, Noon, in 2155

Forecasting and observing hazardous wind and wave conditions in the Gulf Stream continues to be very challenging for the forecast staff of the Ocean Prediction Center. Available observations on the scale of the Gulf Stream current gradients such as winds from scatterometers, wave heights from altimeters, and representative current velocities are extremely limited in time and frequency. In addition, present day numerical guidance does not account for wave, wind, and current interactions. A recent study to quantify the impacts to marine operations using shipboard Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking data has revealed significant delays and course changes by vessels transiting the Gulf Stream during winter and early spring. With very limited observations, it is assumed that wave conditions due to wind, wave, and current interaction require vessel operators to significantly reduce speed and/or alter course while transiting the Gulf Stream in a variety of conditions. This talk will discuss the impact to vessel operations, the limitations of present day observations and numerical model guidance, and present observational evidence of Gulf Stream impacts to winds and waves.