The smartphone has dramatically changed the way people access and interpret weather information. According to the Pew Research Internet Project, in April 2015, 92% of Americans owned a cell phone, and 68% of Americans owned a smartphone. Moreover, in the Florida Keys, it has been our experience that nearly all boating, fishing, and diving charter captains own cell phones (with most of these smartphones). For those whose work or play brings them to sea on a regular basis, access to quality and easy-to-interpret marine weather information is a necessity. The ritual of the morning weather briefing is commonplace in the Florida Keys marine community, whether such a routine involves television, radio, internet, or, increasingly, a smartphone. Marine weather information supports both the safe planning and execution of voyages, and many of these voyages will be remembered fondly for a lifetime by clients from around the world.
The “weather enterprise” (including government, academia, and private sector weather research, data, and forecasting organizations) has produced a plethora of smartphone applications and widgets during the last few years. Many users consult a variety of weather information sources to support their daily, weather-sensitive decision making. The mission of the National Weather Service, under NOAA, is to provide weather, water, and climate data, forecasts, and warnings for the protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy. To this end, the 146-year-old National Weather Service supports the broader weather enterprise with data, information, and knowledge concerning weather, water, and climate warnings, forecasts, and observations. Such information is delivered to local communities by the meteorologists of 122 Weather Forecast Offices across the nation, among which 47 serve coastal communities, including the one in Key West, serving the Florida Keys and the adjoining busy waterways. Recently, the National Weather Service has developed an experimental “adaptive forecast page”, or smartphone widget. It works like an app on your smartphone, and provides direct access to the National Weather Service (NWS) digital forecast database and derived products, including hazardous weather watches, warnings, and advisories. The information comes directly from local NWS meteorologists 24/7/365, and is updated several times per day. Landlubbers may simply type in a zip code or city, state to access the latest seven-day forecast, radar, satellite, forecast discussions, and more. A mariner may use the map to select the latest marine forecast for a location of his or her choice. Key Westers should use “33041” for the zip code.
This smartphone widget can be accessed by simply pointing your smartphone browser to “weather.gov/key”, then clicking on “Smartphone Widget” at the top of the page (under “Top News of the Day”, in pink). Then, just add to your home screen, and you will be all set. We are interested in your feedback, so if you have any, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember to check the weather before heading out on the water, and as always, be weather-ready, and stay safe!
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