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Marine and Coastal Weather Services Branch
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Marine and Coastal Weather Services


The National Weather Service's Marine and Coastal Weather Services Branch (W/OS21) is responsible for oversight of the Marine and Coastal Weather Services Services Program. The program provides current, accurate information relating to U.S. coast, coastal and offshore waters, the Great Lakes, and the open oceans. This information aims to:

  • Ensure the safety of life and protection of property
  • Promote international and interstate commerce by improving the efficiency of marine operations
  • Enhance the quality of life for the United States

Transport by water is generally the most economical and efficient means to move goods. Helping marine traffic avoid hazardous weather benefits Americans by keeping costs down, thus making products more affordable. More than 90 percent of the goods imported into the United States arrive via the oceans. Maritime commerce results in a contribution of $78.6 billion annually and generates nearly 16 million jobs. One out of six jobs in the U.S. is marine related. Further, over 77 million Americans enjoy recreational boating, an industry that generates nearly $18 billion annually in sales of boats and related materials.*

Coastal areas in the U.S. are home to a wealth of natural and economic resources and include some of the most developed areas in the nation. The narrow coastal fringe that makes up 17 percent of the nation's contiguous land area is home to more than half of its population. In 2003, approximately 153 million people (53 percent) of the nation’s population lived in the 673 U.S. coastal counties.**

Using the weather analyses and forecast guidance provided by NCEP, along with radar, satellite, and in-situ observational data, NWS marine weather forecasters issue wind, sea state, and significant weather warnings, forecasts, and weather statements. These are essential to the conduct of safe and efficient maritime operations and for the protection of the marine public.

The collection of weather observations is vital to accurate weather forecasting, and especially so over the waters where weather stations are few and far between. Thousands of vessels worldwide are Volunteer Observing Ships (VOS), sending observations every few hours which are used by marine forecasters and computer modelers to improve the accuracy of the forecasts. The National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) of the NWS maintains 95 buoys in the oceans and the Great Lakes.

Marine forecasts are also issued as needed to aid in search and rescue operations, the containment and cleanup of oil spills or support to other disasters such as plane crash recovery operations.

*Source: Year of the Ocean Discussion Papers, Office of the Chief Scientist, NOAA, 1998.

**Source: Population Trends Along the Coastal United States: 1980-2008, Coastal Trends Report Series, National Ocean Service, NOAA, 2004.


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National Weather Service
Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services
Marine and Coastal Weather Services Branch (W/OS21)
Last modified: May 23, 2008
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