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A Beach Companion: Coastal Water Temperature Guide

Photo of a crowded beach covered with umbrellas in Ocean City, Maryland, courtesy of iStock
©iStock rypson

Planning the ideal trip to the coast doesn't require dipping a single toe into the water to test the temperature. NCEI’s Coastal Water Temperature Guide (CWTG) does all the hard work for water enthusiasts looking for special destinations.

This popular interactive map provides recent ocean and Great Lakes temperatures based on data collected from a fleet of buoys and monitoring stations from NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center and NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services. Scientists, commercial fishermen, coastal recreation, and everyday beach-goers all use the guide for various reasons such as conditions reports, commerce, or to make recreational decisions.

Value of the Coastal Water Temperature Guide

CWTG utilizes Google Maps to create an intuitive format for accessing data from over 220 stations across the United States and its territories. These stations allow the user to compare the area’s current ocean temperature to past averages and to view other information collected by each station. In addition to temperature, you can click through to the stations, which collect data on water levels, air pressure, humidity, and wind speed.

CWTG also enables users to see the effects of short-term influences on ocean temperatures. Certain events can influence the temperature of coastal waters, such as upwelling—when colder deep water rises due to persistent wind conditions pushing warmer surface water away from the coast. Additionally, other changes in weather and river runoff may change ocean temperatures as well.

Using the Coastal Water Temperature Guide

Besides giving users recent temperatures, CWTG shows the date/time of the recorded temperature and the average ocean temperature for any station selected. Each pin on the map represents a station, either a buoy or near-shore structure. Using the online maps, users can click on a station and bring up a popup that displays statistics, as well as a link to the station’s webpage, where further data can be found.

The type of information collected by each station can vary. Air temperature and pressure, water levels, and ocean temperature are common fields for all stations and can be viewed by following the station link provided. Some of the offshore buoys have wave data which can be viewed in near-real time. Sample a station website by visiting Station:1612340 in Honolulu.

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