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New England Surf, Beach and Boating Forecasts
Create Your Own Forecast
Most forecasts are generated by computer software and are generally accurate. But you may do better by checking out multiple sources and applying the discernment of your own experience and commonsense. A good first step is to check the wave forecast from the US Navy known as FNMOC WW3. The Wave Watch 3 forecast looks 8 days out and shows low pressure systems as they build and move. The Wave Watch forecast also shows wave direction, something not available from National Weather Service marine forecasts. It's interesting to see hurricanes form off the coast of Africa, move across the Atlantic and then up the Eastern Seaboard. From a New England surfer's perspective, a beautiful Wave Watch forecast will show a massive low parked some 300 miles off Cape Cod for a couple of days combined with gentle offshore breezes. Boaters naturally see things differently. Wave heights are shown in colors and a scale (in feet) appears at the bottom of each image. There's an image for every 12 hour period. Note that "00Z" means midnight and "12Z" means noon... Greenwich Mean Time. That's 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. There are FNMOC forecasts for the entire globe. One reason California gets better surf than New England is that California receives swells that are generated as far away as Antarctica! You can see how this on the global wave forecasts. Here's a link to all of the FNMOC WW3 charts. After checking the chart the next step is to check out the wind forecast. Big waves are generated by onshore winds during a Nor'easter; but the surfing only gets good when the winds turn offshore and cleans things up.
Go to Weather.com, enter the zip code for the beach you're interested in, and click on the 10-day forecast. Then, on the bar labeled "Forecast Conditions," set the drop down menu to"wind speed." This will display wind direction and speed. The wind direction means where the wind is blowing from. A northeast wind blows onshore - toward the beach - on Cape Cod and offshore - away from the beach - on the southern coasts of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Offshore winds make for clean waves with good shape. Onshore winds make waves choppy and messy. When the wind starts blowing around 40 mph fom the northeast and the waves get churned like a washing machine surfers refer to conditions as "Victory at Sea".
If you see a hurricane offshore and 5-15 mph winds out of the west, then it's a good time to plan a few days for epic surf almost anywhere in New England. Surf-Forecast.com, based in the UK, offers great forecasts giving wave height and wind speed for almost every major surf break in the world. Note that wave height and wind speed are shown in metric units - meters and kilometers per hour. We also think very highly of Magic Seaweed and Swellinfo.com.
New England water temps vary from swimsuit warm to wetsuit cold. Not surprisingly, waters in southern New England on the coasts of Connecticut, Rhode Island and SE Massachusetts (around 72F in July and August) are warmer than northern New England on the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine (July and August usually see 62F up to Bar Harbor, 51F for Eastport). Massachusetts from Cape Cod north generally stays in the mid 60's. It's interesting and useful to note that, for Cape Cod's ocean beaches in particular, water temperatures can vary wildly from day to day during the summer. In a 24 hour period, the temperature can drop from 75F to 55F. This happens when there's been a heat wave with light and/or onshore winds followed by strong offshore winds. Warm weather with onshore winds creates a pool of warm surface water along the shoreline. When winds blow offshore, warm water is pushed out to sea and cold water is pulled up to the surface, commonly called upwelling. When planning a day at a New England beach it's a good idea to note which way the wind has been blowing.The graph below shows current water temperatures for New England. Average Coastal Water temps for New England Coast: http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/natl.html
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