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Marine Communications

View of the bridge aboard the Lee A. Tregurtha

A view of the bridge aboard the Lee A. Tregurtha.
(Image courtesy of Jason Alumbaugh, National Weather Service Marquette)











Marine communication through the years

Since 1975, many methods have been developed to communicate marine warnings, statements, forecasts, and observations. In 1975, the main methods to send out NWS marine products were VHF voice radio, MF (Medium Frequency) radio telephone, and commercial AM marine radio stations. Today there are multiple ways to gather weather information for commercial mariners and recreational boaters.

In 1975, communications between ships or from ship-to-shore were carried out by either VHF radio or an MF radio telephone. Any marine warnings, statements, and forecasts were disseminated by the Coast Guard on VHF radio. Today, the VHF radio still is a major player in communicating NWS marine products as Open Lake forecasts are broadcast twice daily over VHF radio. However, there are now many other methods of getting marine products, including via the internet through cell phones and satellite phones. 

Data availability including online and NOAA Weather Radio

Both text and graphical products - specifically tailored to each of the Great Lakes - are available to commercial and public mariners, including the entire Open Lake text forecast and MAFOR for each Great Lake as well as forecast and modeled wind and wave height graphics out to 7 days. On the Great Lakes Marine Web Portal, you can find gridded and text weather and water information for the entire Great Lakes region. In addition, a point forecast for anywhere on the Great Lakes is accessable from the National Weather Service homepage at Just click on the marine area you are interested in. Access to real time buoy and CMAN station observations is available from the NDBC web site

NOAA Weather RadioIn addition to VHF radio, there is also NOAA weather radio, which provides a continuous voice broadcast of Nearshore and Open Lake forecasts as well as surface and marine observations. Special marine warnings and marine weather statements are also broadcast on weather radio. National Weather Service offices also record the marine forecasts on the telephone. During the boating season, for the latest Lake Superior Forecast you may call the National Weather Service near Marquette at (906) 475-5212 and select option 3 for the open lake forecast for south central Lake Superior, option 4 for the nearshore marine forecast for Lake Superior between the Huron Islands and Grand Marais and option 5 for the nearshore marine forecast for northwest Lake Michigan, including the northern Bay of Green Bay.

Additional options

If a boater seeks more detailed buoy and CMAN station weather information, the National Data Buoy Center's (NDBC) Dial-A-Buoy telephone service is another viable source. Through Dial-A-Buoy, the mariner can obtain the latest meteorological and oceanographic data from a telephone recording updated hourly. To reach Dial-A-Buoy call 1-888-701-8992 and enter the five-digit station identifier you're interested in.

As you can see, there have been plenty of advances in marine communications since 1975. The marine community now has access to real time buoy and CMAN station data through numerous mediums. Warnings and forecasts are also readily available either over VHF radio, NOAA weather radio or the internet.

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