Forecasts and observations

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Each year the Bureau issues over 18,000 marine forecasts for 78 coastal waters zones covering 37,000 kilometres of Australia’s coastline. Our marine forecasts are regularly broadcast on marine radio to keep boaters informed of approaching weather.

Marine forecasts

Marine weather forecasts include broadscale information on wind, weather, sea and swell and describe the average conditions over specified areas.

  • Local waters forecasts are for areas such as bays, harbours and inland waters on which frequent boating activity occurs.

  • Coastal waters forecasts are for areas within 60 nautical miles of the coast.

  • High seas forecasts are issued twice daily for the broader ocean areas surrounding Australia (see map of high seas areas).
NEW MAP OF COASTAL & LOCAL WATERS AREAS Download a high resolution image of the coastal & local waters areas map

Local and coastal waters forecasts are issued twice daily and cover three to four days. They are issued at approximately 5am and 5pm (local time), and include at the end of the forecast when the next issue is expected. They are updated every 6 hours if a wind warning is current, and can also be updated at other times if conditions change significantly.

The size of coastal waters areas are based on supporting the broadcast of forecasts over marine radio, bounded by distinct land reference points. Because it is not possible to describe in detail all expected conditions in the area over a long period of time, skippers are expected to be prepared for local effects. It is important to note that wind and wave forecasts are averages. Wind gusts can be 40 percent stronger, and stronger still in squalls and thunderstorms. Maximum waves can be twice the height.

Broad spatial and temporal differences are described in the forecast, and may refer to inshore or offshore areas (where inshore extends from the coast out to 12 nautical miles, and offshore extends from 12 to 60 nautical miles).

Terms used to describe the time of day in our forecasts:

Early in the morning: Expected to occur before 7am.
In the morning: Expected to occur between 1am and 11am.
In the late morning: Expected to occur between 9am and midday.
During early afternoon: Expected to occur between 12pm and 4pm.
During the afternoon: Expected to occur between 1pm and 9pm.
In the evening: Expected to occur between 6pm and midnight.
Later in the evening: Expected to occur after 9pm.

If you want more detailed information, the Bureau’s graphical forecast tool MetEye displays wind and wave forecasts for the area you are planning to operate in, showing three-hourly forecasts for 6km by 6km grids across all coastal waters areas.

Sample coastal waters forecast

Sample forecast

Sections of the coastal waters forecasts explained

  • Wind warning (when applicable): A wind warning label will be added to the forecast for days one and two if a warning is current, indicating the highest category of wind warning. Find out more about Marine Wind Warnings.
  • Winds: Provides a summary of the average wind speed and direction ranges expected within the coastal waters area, covering the area out to 60 nautical miles, and indicating any changes during the day.
  • Seas: Describes the waves or chop generated by the local wind conditions.
  • Swell: The most dominant swell height and direction is described, including any significant changes.
  • 2nd Swell: (when applicable): There is generally one dominant swell, however in some areas two different swells may occur. A second swell is included when both swells are above 1 metre.
  • Weather: Includes information about cloud cover, visibility, and the potential for rain and thunderstorms. When thunderstorms are forecast for capital city local waters areas, it is important to check whether Severe Thunderstorm Warnings have been issued for the capital city area. Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are issued when wind gusts exceeding 48 knots, or large hail, or heavy rainfall are expected.
  • Caution (when applicable – NSW & QLD only): Similar to the wind warning, this caution is activated when hazardous surf conditions pose heightened risk to rock fishing and boaters crossing ocean bars.

See further explanations of these terms in the reference pages about waves and winds, and in the glossary.

Forecasts for sea surface temperatures and currents

The Ocean Forecast Map Viewer provides seven-day forecasts for sea surface temperatures, currents, sea level anomalies, and salinity. The maps cover all of the Australian coastline and offshore islands, providing a resource for boaters, fishers, and others with an interest in how the oceans around Australia change on a day-to-day basis.

Marine observations

Coastal weather stations provide frequent observations of wind speed, wind gust and temperature. Checking nearby observations before you go out and during boating will enhance your safety. Radar and satellite can also be used to track weather systems such as fronts, troughs and tropical cyclones.

When using wind observations, it is important to remember most coastal stations are located on land so wind speeds may be unrepresentative of the actual wind conditions at sea. The reasons for this include:

  • Wind speeds are generally higher over water because the wind is not slowed by the roughness of land surfaces containing trees, hills and buildings.

  • Winds on the coast may be influenced by inshore sea and land breezes.

Some stations are at some distance inland from the coast but have been included as they provide some helpful information in areas where there are no other coastal weather stations.

Tide predictions

Tide heights and times are available for primary locations with local tide measurements. These tide predictions may be used for navigation.

However, for some locations, only tide times are available (not heights). These Secondary locations should not be used for navigation purposes.

Tide predictions are based on the astronomical influences with some seasonal effects. Actual water levels are also affected by local weather, wind and wave conditions.

See: Tide Predictions for Australia, South Pacific and Antarctica

Marine services for offshore yacht races

Every day, the Bureau of Meteorology's routine marine and ocean service provides critical wind, wave and ocean information that will assist racing yachts plan for a safe journey.

See: Marine services for offshore yacht races

Marine services for surfing

Every day, surfers rely on wind and wave forecasts to plan the best time to go surfing at their favourite spot.

See: Check the weather before you go surfing

Weather and ocean information support for Search and Rescue

Weather and ocean information play a vital role in supporting Search and Rescue operations.

See: Weather and Ocean information support for Search and Rescue

Services for inland waters

Forecast wind wave heights are available for Australia's significant inland waters. Visit MetEye and select 'wind wave height' under Waves Forecasts to see three-hourly forecasts for the next four days. MetEye also shows wind, rainfall, temperature, UV, and other forecasts relevant to activities on inland waters.

Accessing Information

There are a number of communication methods available to check Bureau marine services, forecasts, warnings and observations:

  • MarineLite: Includes High Seas, Coastal and Local Waters forecasts and warnings in text-only format, making them both faster, more affordable and more accessible for slow data links. Each MarineLite product version is less than 4Kb in size – 95 per cent lighter than the same web pages on the Bureau’s main website.

  • VHF voice radio: Inshore, broadcasts at scheduled times, provided by local marine organisations.

  • HF voice radio: Off-shore, broadcast continuously 24/7, provided by the Bureau

  • Inmarsat: Global satellite communications for high seas warnings and forecasts, some coastal forecasts, provided by the Bureau for Australian high seas and coastal areas.

  • Telephone weather services: Pre-recorded Coastal and Local Waters forecasts and warnings for each State/Territory.

The Bureau’s website may also be checked when within range of mobile service.



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