Goals and Standards for Starpath Marine Weather Course

These "standards" are the guidelines we use to organize the topic materials of the course and certification process. For the most part, they are just a minimum list of facts, subjects, or skills that should be known. They are characterized in general terms below and then itemized by topic.

The Basic Standard means that level of knowledge of marine weather required for safe operation of vessels in typical conditions including those of typical bad weather conditions. Generally this standard includes basic terminology, descriptions, and behavior of common weather systems, and an understanding of the content and use of basic resources including printed and radio sources. Every vessel of any size that travels beyond sheltered waters away from immediate refuge should have a working knowledge of marine weather at the level of the Basic Standard.

The Advanced Standard adds to the Basic Standard the goal of efficient use of weather information as well as the treatment of more specialized circumstances. It also includes more on the principles behind the processes at least insofar as they add to the practical application of the information. This standard includes the expert use of all weather resources available. USCG testing includes use of codes, but the Starpath certification does not test on these. Knowledge of marine weather on the level of the Advanced Standard should be comparable to that of professional ships' officers who are actively involved in the application of marine weather to the navigation of their vessels. In addition, this standard includes a definite sailing vessel component, including the tactical use of weather maps for selecting optimum sailing routes.

Goals and Standards of the Starpath Marine Weather Course using Weather Trainer Live

1. Introduction, philosophy, and goals of marine weather

Why learn marine weather
What can we learn
What are reasonable goals
What are the most important aspects of marine weather
Fundamental science versus practical knowledge

2. Units and Conversions

pressure, temperature, distance, and speed
speed-time-distance computations
great circle and rhumbline concepts
dead reckoning
time and time zone conversions

more complex conversion problems
special units, ie density, lapse rate

3. Air Masses and the Atmosphere

Air mass definitions and abbreviations
Regions of origin
general structure of the atmosphere
boundaries as fronts

subclasses of air masses
front and High formation
specific properties of the atmosphere
the standard atmosphere

4. Pressure and Barometers

pressure gradient and wind speed
use of aneroid barometer, elevation and parallax corrections
Isobars and their map depiction, Buys Ballot's law
basics of barometer as forecaster
properties of Highs and Lows, ridges, and troughs

use and value of absolute pressures
barometer calibrations
diurnal variation
specifics in barometer use in forecasting
evaluation of weather maps using pressure
geostrophic wind computations

5. Behavior of Wind

wind terminology (veer, backing, wind names)
Wind flow around Highs and Lows
effects of surface friction
true wind from apparent wind, apparent wind instrumentation
wind changes with altitude
force of the wind, general picture of the winds aloft

apparent wind from true wind
wind speed from isobar spacing
true wind instrumentation
more detailed knowledge of winds aloft

6. Clouds

cloud types (genera)
classification by heights and shapes
distinction between stratoform and cumuliform
rules on cloud meanings to marine weather

cloud species and features
significance of various cloud forms
evolution and sequencing of clouds
causes and significance of various cloud shapes

7. Fronts

general structure of fronts and frontal systems
clouds, wind, rain, and pressure behavior at fronts
fundamentals of frontal motion

frontal systems as waves
evolution of frontal waves and occlusions
more specific behavior of fronts
pressure patterns with passing fronts
fronts in the SH
fronts and satellite photos

8. Lows and hurricanes

properties of Lows compared to Highs
wind and weather in and around Lows
cloud patterns
hurricane zones and statistics

formation of Lows
evolution of frontal systems and secondary Lows
description and behavior of topical cyclones
forecasting tropical cyclones

9. Squalls and lightning

description of squalls as convective cells
general description of winds in a squall
rain as a sign of development
Rule No. 1 in forecasting
description of lightning, lightning protection
lightning statistics

specific local winds near squalls
cloud indicators of squall formation
squall maneuvering
effects of lightning strikes
wx map depiction of thunderstorms (doldrums)

10. Fog and humidity

dew point and relative humidity
sea fog versus radiation fog
visibility and luminous range

other sources of fog (frontal fog, arctic smoke)
lapse rate
stability of the atmosphere

11. Wind and terrain

concept of land's influence and local winds
basics of sea and land breezes
gap winds, katabatic winds
general concepts of wind shadows and funneling
behavior of gusts, corner effect, wind shifts near shore
lee trough (California trough)
sources of local knowledge

details and application of the concepts
prominent examples around the world

12. Specific winds

general descriptions of global circulation
trade winds, doldrums, roaring forties, prevailing westerlies
polar easterlies, monsoons

details of the various global wind patterns
prominent local winds around the world
winds aloft

13. Sea state

definitions of height, length, period, steepness, speed
fetch limitations, swells versus waves, Beaufort scale
significant wave height
effect of current on wave steepness

statistics of wave distributions
sea state forecasting
extreme storm waves (rogue waves)

14. Shipboard forecasting

fundamental significance of natural indicators: wind speed, wind direction, barometer, clouds, and sea state
combining natural signs with official forecasts to obtain the best picture of the weather situation

combining the various signs in special circumstances
more details on the natural signs
signs of approaching tropical cyclones
storm avoidance maneuvering

15. Fax maps and satellites

understanding of fax maps services and products
fundamentals of wx map reading
description of satellite communications
model output vs vetted weather data

use of SSB radios
details of fax map reception
detailed use of surface analysis and forecasts
sea state maps, winds aloft (500 mb maps)
use of onboard instrumentation to evaluate surface maps use of satellite photos

16. Sources

VHF radio / SSB / Sat phone
High seas voice reports
Coast Pilot and Sailing Directions
radiofax services
Online soruces

Mariner's weather Log, NAVTEX, worldwide sources of radiofax maps and text via INMARSAT
weather routing services
Morse code weather
MAREPs, SafetyNet 

17. Codes and form

know they exist, who uses them, and why

use of WMO wx observations code FM 13-IX for form B-81
use of IAC surface analysis code FM 46.D
use of NWS forecast code MAYFOR
solve USCG coding problems

18. Ice at sea

basics of icing
where and when could ice be encountered
sources of info on ice navigation
sources of info on ice data

icing rates and conditions
ice terminology
weather in and near the ice
basics of ice navigation
sources of ice data

19. Sailing tactics

relative positions when tacking in uniform conditions
polar diagrams
lifts and headers
progress to weather
optimum course downwind

optimum course in changing conditions
ocean route planning
new heading after jibe to same apparent wind angle
evaluating ocean race course positions
use of clouds to gage wind shifts

20. Southern Hemisphere weather

distinctions between NH and SH wind flow
general description of SH winds and weather
vertical wind flow profile NH vs SH

specific SH winds and weather
speed of lows and fronts in Roaring Forties
SH sources of wx info
what is reversed and what isn't

21. Weather and the Nav Rules

Rule 2 -- responsibility and good seamanship
Rule 3 -- definition of restricted visibility, proper watch, safe speed, concept of collision risk
Rule 19 -- conduct in restricted visibility, basics

Rule 19 - conduct in restricted visibility -- in all aspects
concept of close quarters
use of radar in general