Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tracking Hurricanes

Hurricane season is upon us in the Caribbean.  With internet access anywhere from good to non-existent, we need a reliable source of info about possible activity.  I've received our first Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook email, so I'll share what I have set up, then I'll update as the season progresses.

This is based on an article from The Boat Galley written in 2006, titled Tropical-Storm-Tracking-with-Sailmail-Revised-2-06.  I've tweaked it with updated info and to include references to our Iridum GO! (see blog, "Setting up my Iridium GO!")  The goal it to use Saildocs to receive text forecasts on our Iridium email (and regular email when available).  Secondly, research and bookmark links for low-bandwidth graphic forecasts for the Opera Mini browser (see blog "Slow internet and/or using less data") when closer tracking is required.

We'll start simple.  On Twitter, follow @NHC_Atlantic:  on the Iridium GO!, text to 40404: follow @NHC_Atlantic

Facebook also has several good pages including : NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center, Mike's Weather Page, Marv's Weather Service, and Crown Weather Service

Now it's time to go to and get familiar with their service.  The following are the send/sub requests you might need for hurricane season.

TEXT FORECASTS, Saildocs, (Atlantic):  
If you want to check my work, for current Saildocs filenames send email to

  • send nws-gmex
I recommend the Offshore Forecast throughout the season (text):

but if you’re sitting for hurricane season, maybe:

  • Synopsis only (Carib):  send/sub AMZ001
  • Windward/Trinidad only (no synopsis!): send/sub AMZ035
The following 11 subscriptions are for tracking a tropical storm.  After the initial subscription, you only get an email when there is a change:

1.  Atlantic/Carib Tropical Wx Outlook
  • sub atl.outlook interval=1 days=365  
2.  Atlantic/Carib Discussion (gen comments/prediction confidence).  NHC monitors multiple systems so repeat for 2, 3, 4, & 5.
  • sub atl.disc1 interval=1 days=365
  • sub atl.disc2 interval=1 days=365
  • sub atl.disc3 interval=1 days=365
  • sub atl.disc4 interval=1 days=365
  • sub atl.disc5 interval=1 days=365
3.  Tropical Depression Forecast/Advisory (detailed).  NHC monitors multiple systems so repeat for 2, 3, 4, & 5.

  • sub atl.tech_advis1 interval=1 days=365 
  • sub atl.tech_advis2 interval=1 days=365 
  • sub atl.tech_advis3 interval=1 days=365 
  • sub atl.tech_advis4 interval=1 days=365 
  • sub atl.tech_advis5 interval=1 days=365

(Check at 1 hour intervals for updates:  interval=1)(Specify subscription period: days=365)
You can also get National Hurricane Center's High Seas Forecast (text):

  • send/sub FZNT02.KNHC

I recommend subscribing to the text forecasts above.  However, the following are larger graphic forecasts, so experiment then have this list standing by for when things require closer observation:

Bookmark NHC Marine Forecasts in Opera browser:

Here are the 5 primary graphics from the National Hurricane Center:
GRAPHICS, Saildocs, (Atlantic).  Be aware of file size vs your data plan

  • 1.  NHC Sea State Analysis (graphic, current):  send PJEA11.TIF
Subscribe 0000Z (graphic): sub PJEA88.TIF
Subscribe 1200Z (graphic): sub PJEA90TIF

  • 2.  NHC Tropical Surface Forecast (graphic, E half, 24, current): send PYEE10.TIF
24 HR 0000Z: sub PYEE79.TIF
24 HR 1200Z: sub PYEE80.TIF
Get 48 (graphic, E half, current): send PYEI10.TIF
48 HR 0000Z: sub PYEI81.TIF
48 HR 1200Z: sub PYEI82.TIF
Get 72 (graphic, E half, current): send PYEK10.TIF
72 HR 0000Z: sub PYEK83.TIF
72 HR 1200Z: sub PYEK84.TIF

  • 3.  NHC Wind/Wave forecast (graphic, current, 24): send PWEE11.TIF
0000Z: sub PWEE89.TIF
1200Z: sub PWEE91.TIF
Get 36 HR, 1200Z:  send/sub PWED98.TIF
Get 48 (graphic, current): sub PWEI11.TIF
0000Z:  sub PWEI88.TIF
1200Z:  sub PWEI89.TIF
Get 72 (graphic, current): sub PJEK11.TIF
0000Z:  sub PJEK88.TIF
1200Z:  sub PJEK89.TIF

  • 4.  NHC Wave Period/Swell Direction (graphic, 48 HR, current):  send PJEI11.TIF
0000Z: sub PJEI88.TIF
1200Z: sub PJEI89.TIF
Get 72 HR (graphic, 0000Z):  send/sub PKEK88.TIF

  • 5.  NHC Tropical Cyclone Danger Area (graphic, current, after May 15/High Wind Sea):  send PWEK11.TIF  
0300Z:  sub PWEK89.TIF
0900Z:  sub PWEK90.TIF
1500Z:  sub PWEK91.TIF
2100Z:  sub PWEK88.TIF
(Mariner’s 1-2-3 Rule)

I also consider the following useful:

  • Tropical Surface Analysis (low res wide area, graphic, E half, current):  send PYEA11.TIF
(W half, current):  send PYEB11.TIF
0000Z (E): sub PYEA86.TIF (W) sub PYEB86.TIF
0600Z (E): sub PYEA87.TIF (W) sub PYEB87.TIF
1200Z (E): sub PYEA85.TIF (W) sub PYEB85.TIF
1800Z (E): sub PYEA88.TIF (W) sub PYEB88.TIF

Is that clear as mud?  I had to save to the blog, so I wouldn't risk losing all my notes!  I can't promise this is all accurate, but it's a start.  Please share any ideas (or point out any errors) below.  Good luck out there.

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