Weather Forecasting

Storm closing in off the coast of Dominican Republic

Storm closing in off the coast of Dominican Republic

So we are sat here in the DR waiting for a weather window to carry on kayaking. There are two things we are looking at at the moment... a break in the forecasted thunderstorms to continue along the North coast without risk of being blasted out the water by lightning, and a weather window to complete our 90 nautical mile crossing to the Turks and Caicos.

We have been on the expedition for almost seven weeks now and in that time have accumulated a rather comprehensive catalogue of websites and other resources for creating our 'best guess' of what weather we are likely to encounter. I say 'best guess' because you always have to be prepared for weather that is not forecasted, like lightening when no storms are predicted or strong winds when you expect just a breeze (and vice versa). We have experienced both of these... and everything in between...

Things are almost easier when we have no access to wifi. In these cases we have to go off the limited information we have available to us. On the Golden Arc Expedition we are supported by Karell at Kayak Weather who provides us with weather updates to our satellite phone twice a day. These are basic but provide the essential information of wind speed, wind direction, wave height and wave direction. On knowing these variables we can decide whether we need to seek quick refuge, stay put or can continue paddling without worry.

When we have access to wifi we like to do the job ourselves and as well as getting an immediate forecast get an idea of how conditions will develop into the near and more distant future. This can be a thankless task and different forecasters will often offer conflicting predictions. In this case it is difficult to avoid the trap of picking the forecast that is kindest to what you want to do. Most importantly, at the end of the day you have to act on the best information available to you and ultimately take responsibility for your decisions. 

So, if you find yourself in need of a few weather forecasting tools, if you're just interested and want to see what we're looking at or you're bored in the library and want any excuse to avoid doing what you are meant to be doing, here is what we look at.

1. Wind Guru

Our Go-To website. If we can only check one thing it will be here. However, many of the spots are 'unofficial' i.e. created by members of the public so we like to back up Wind Guru predictions with other resources when possible.

2. National Hurricane Centre- Offshore Waters Forecast 

The same information we are sent by Karel at Kayak Weather. We have found the National Hurricane Centre provides very reliable forecasts.

3. WindyTV

A cool website, also available as an app, most useful for wind direction and strength. You can click anywhere on the map to get a detailed weather forecast at that location.

4. Passage Weather 

Similar to WindyTV but better for surface pressure, wave height and direction.  Provides a seven day forecast, most useful for passage planning.

5. NHC Five Day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook 

You have to look ahead and keep an eye on any systems that might be developing so you do not get caught off guard later on. Two day and five day tropical weather outlook available on the NHC website.

6. Other websites:

We do not use these on their own, but they are essential to build the picture of what wewther we are expecting, especially in relation to precipitation and the risk of thunderstorms.

Weather Underground

Goes to the top of the list when we are looking at how a potentially threatening weather system might develop. In particular, Dr. Jeff Masters provides fantastic analysis and predictions in his blog here.

So, this is not a complete list and we are the first to admit we a definitely no experts in the subject of weather forecasting. This page may, though, provide a useful - or perhaps just interesting - list of resources for water goers wanting to get a better picture of the weather outlook. 

If you think we have missed something important or have a suggestion for an addition please send it over to us! For example, we have so far been unable to find any surface pressure charts showing pressure weather fronts etc. for the Caribbean area. For the UK and Europe, see here.