The Sea Truth
Perhaps you have heard of the term “ground truth”. It refers to real-time features, observable from the ground, which verify remotely sensed data. Remotely sensed data basically are features detected by devices like radar and satellite. Ground truth is very important in real-time weather forecasting for two main reasons: 1) radar and satellite observations have become more numerous and thus an integral part of weather forecasting over the last 20 years or so; and 2) the capacity for detection of weather features on the ground by radar and satellites is far from perfect.
In the Florida Keys, the term “sea truth” may be more appropriate given the prominence of marine weather. Indeed, the Florida Keys National Weather Service has a marine area of responsibility greater than 22,000 square miles covering Florida Bay, Hawk Channel, the Straits of Florida, and a portion of the extreme southeastern Gulf of Mexico. Amazingly, not even one data buoy operates across this vast area! In addition, only a handful of automated weather stations are operating at the deteriorating lighthouse structures along the Florida Reef tract. The need for “sea truth” is obvious.
One of the best definitions of a forecast is “FORECAST = DIAGNOSIS + TREND”. If, like in the medical field, the diagnosis is incorrect, then the forecast (or prognosis) will be wrong. Sea truth helps weather forecasters prepare a better diagnosis of the current weather situation, and this, in turn, improves the quality of the subsequent forecast. Sea truth may also help improve forecast quality in the long run, to the extent that it helps develop a “verification database”. Verification is the quantitative aspect of forecast evaluation. It is a method to help assess the quality of a forecast using past forecasts and their corresponding observations.
So, how do we get more sea truth? We need you! Yes, you! We need the help of the scores of captains, guides, mates, dockmasters, and others who work or recreate daily across the waters adjoining the fabulous Florida Keys. You can help local marine weather forecasters fill in the blanks, and establish the sea truth. How?
- Send us a report using your phone, tablet, or desktop PC. We have tried to make this easy by developing the following interface. It is not perfect, but we welcome your feedback to make it better. http://www.srh.noaa.gov/srh/marine/report/
- Call us. The number is (305) 295-1316 ext. 3. Someone will pick up any time of the day or night at our 24/7 operations center in Key West.
- Join our Marine Weather Spotter Network. We have worked closely with the Coast Guard Auxiliary in the Florida Keys to educate boaters with respect to marine weather hazards in the Florida Keys, and we welcome additional volunteers. For more information, contact Chip Kasper at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for helping us to help you! And, remember to be weather-ready and stay safe!
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