Six things you need to know about wind warnings

Marine Wind Warnings form part of the coastal and local waters forecasts. They are broadcast on marine radio (VHF and HF), published on the Bureau's website, and available in the warnings section of the BOM Weather app. Checking for wind warnings is the most important of the Five Vital Weather Safety Checks. When a Marine Wind Warning is issued, these are the key features that you should consider.

1. When will the wind warning conditions start?

The warning indicates the period covered. Marine Wind Warnings are issued as much as 42 hours in advance and are then updated every 6 hours. However, if conditions develop rapidly, warnings can be issued and updated at any time.

Skippers already on the water should assess if they have enough time to get back to port before the wind picks up or take precautions and seek shelter.

2. What speed will the wind reach?

The wind strengths associated with the different categories of wind warnings issued by the Bureau are presented in the table below. As a skipper, you need to be aware of what wind conditions your vessel can handle, and take steps to avoid stronger winds.

Remember that the wind speeds mentioned in forecasts and warnings are averages, and that wind gusts can be 40 per cent stronger, and stronger still in the vicinity of thunderstorms and squalls.

Strong wind warning  Winds averaging from 26 knots and up to 33 knots.
Gale warning  Winds averaging from 34 knots and up to 47 knots.
Storm force wind warning  Winds averaging from 48 knots and up to 63 knots.
Hurricane force wind warning  Winds averaging 64 knots or more.


3. What area is the wind warning for?

The Marine Wind Warning Summary lists which coastal and local waters areas are affected. You should be familiar with the Bureau’s coastal and local waters areas and which ones overlap with your location.

Coastal and local waters forecasts also indicate a wind warning is current for that area, and can indicate which areas may be more impacted (e.g. inshore or offshore). The Bureau’s graphical forecast tool MetEye also enables you to get more detail for the area you are planning to operate in, showing three-hourly forecasts for 6km2 grids across all coastal waters areas.

4. What direction will the wind be from?

The Bureau’s forecasts will indicate what direction the wind will be coming from. With passing fronts or low pressure systems, wind directions may change suddenly. If you are seeking shelter, be prepared to move your vessel when the wind direction changes for safety.

5. Is there any bad weather expected?

Upon hearing of a wind warning, skippers should seek further information from the Bureau’s forecasts via marine radio (VHF or HF) or the Bureau’s website. Coastal and local waters forecasts provide additional important information, including if bad weather is also expected. A cold front or thunderstorm may be associated with other hazards such as squalls, heavy rain, or lightning.

Skippers should always exercise additional caution for local effects and in case conditions worsen suddenly.

6. When will the warning conditions cease?

The wind warning and forecast indicate when winds are expected to ease, or if the warning has been cancelled. Knowing how long the wind warning may last will help skippers determine their risk management plans.