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partly sunny
Today's Weather
Lat: 00° 47.54N
Long: 086° 08.29W
Wind: S-SE
Sea State: 3
Swell Height: 4-7ft.
Baro Press: 1008.7mb
Air Temp: 24.6°C 76.3°F
Sea Temp: 26.5°C 79.8°F
Vis: 8-10nm

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what's to eat?

Weather Watching
May 29, 2005
By Amy Nevala

On land, the weather for Memorial Day weekend is a much-discussed topic, as holiday revelers visit beaches, enjoy picnics, and plant gardens. At sea, the weather also receives scrutiny because it influences our ability to do oceanographic research safely.

So far during our expedition, we have enjoyed warm, mostly sunny weather with no storms, making it easy each day to deploy and recover Alvin. But today’s report, sent to the ship via an early morning email from the U.S. Navy office in Virginia, caught the attention of Atlantis captain George Silva. It is hurricane season in the north Pacific, and about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) north of us is a low-pressure system that may build and “really get things blowing.”

Each day George and expedition leader and Alvin pilot Pat Hickey gather information about the weather to make a decision about deploying the sub. “We can launch Alvin in all kinds of weather, but the issue is bringing it back safely,” when dealing with squalls and waves, Pat said.

“It is better to call the sub back early if we see any potential issues with safety,” George said this evening when Alvin arrived back on the ship. “Today there were no immediate weather concerns, so we decided to go ahead with the launch. But we’re always keeping an eye on things. If the wind had kicked up to 25 knots for any length of time, we would have recovered early.”

Four- to six-foot waves made for a slightly rocky launch. “We can’t change the weather, but we can make things more comfortable for people deploying the sub by changing the position of the ship,” he said. George demonstrated by turning Atlantis so that it provided a sheltered place away from winds and incoming waves.

George and the ship’s mates have several resources that give us the best understanding of the weather. In addition to regular email and fax communications with meteorological agencies in the U.S., we also have 24-hour Internet access, and an atlas of pilot charts that provides the long-term, average weather, wave, currents and tropical storm pattern information specific to our location.

George said that one of the most useful tools is the barometer, an instrument that measures atmospheric pressure that can indicate possible incoming storms. “You don’t want to see any major drops in the barometer,” he said. “When low-pressure systems come in and produce a storm, people prone to seasickness become very unhappy.”


Mail Buoy

Do you have questions about oceanographic research, hydrothermal vents, or about what it is like to work on board a ship? E-mail your questions to the scientists working on board RV Atlantis at Please tell us your town and state, and keep your messages short with no attachments. Read today's mail »