Coastal, Oceanic, and Marine Terms

The following table describes various marine-oriented terms related to severe weather or unusual water, waves, current, or wind conditions over the coastal waters and open Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. These usually have no relevance to Kentucky and Southern Indiana's weather.

PRODUCT Description
ADVISORY Official information issued by Tropical Cyclone Centers, such as the National Hurricane Center near Miami, FL. Describes all tropical cyclone watches and warnings in effect along with details concerning locations, intensity, movement, and precautions that should be taken. Advisories are also issued to describe tropical cyclones prior to the issuance of watches and warnings and subtropical cyclones.
COASTAL FLOOD STATEMENT Keeps the public and cooperating agencies informed of the status of existing coastal flood watches and warnings, as well as provides an update on local conditions. Also used to cancel a watch or warning.
COASTAL FLOOD WATCH/WARNING A coastal flood watch alerts coastal residents to the possibility of flooding. A coastal flood warning means that flooding is imminent or occurring. Coastal waters extend out 100 nautical miles.
GALE WARNING Warns the public that sustained winds of 34 to 47 knots (39 to 54 mph) inclusive are expected or occurring, and are not directly associated with tropical cyclones.
HEAVY SURF ADVISORY Advises people that heavy (high) surf may pose a threat to life or property. Such advisories may be issued alone or in conjunction with coastal flood watches or warnings.
HURRICANE EYE The relatively calm area in the center of the storm. In this area, winds are relatively light and the sky often is only partly covered by clouds.
HURRICANE EYE WALL The area surrounding the hurricane eye. Usually the most intense winds of the hurricane are located here.
HURRICANE SEASON The part of the year having a relatively high incidence of hurricanes. In the Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and central Pacific, the hurricane season is from June through November.
HURRICANE LOCAL STATEMENT A public release in or near the threatened area giving specific details on weather conditions, evacuation decisions made by local officials, and other necessary precautions to protect life and property.
HURRICANE WATCH An announcement for specific locations that a hurricane poses a possible threat generally within 36 hours.
HURRICANE WARNING A warning that sustained surface winds of 64 knots (74 mph) or higher are expected in specified coastal areas within 24 hours or less. A hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water and/or exceptionally high waves continue even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
INLAND HIGH WIND WATCHES FOR HURRICANE FORCE WINDS Issued for inland locations when hurricane force winds are anticipated beyond the coastal areas though the actual occurrence, timing, and location are still uncertain.
SPECIAL TROPICAL DISTURBANCE STATEMENT Issued to furnish information on strong formative, nondepression systems. It focuses on major threats of the disturbance, such as the potential for torrential rains on island or inland areas.
STORM SUMMARY Issued by the National Hurricane Center after subtropical and tropical cyclones have moved inland and advisories have been discontinued. These summaries are initiated when and if flash flood watches are posted in the conterminous U.S. because of an approaching system.
STORM SURGE An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a tropical cyclone. The height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the storm. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomical tide from the observed storm tide.
STORM TIDE The actual sea level resulting from the astronomical tide combined with the storm surge. This term is used interchangeably with "hurricane tide".
STORM WARNING A warning that sustained winds of 48 knots (55 mph) or greater are expected or occurring and are not directly associated with tropical cyclones.
STRIKE PROBABILITY FORECAST OF TROPICAL CYCLONE CONDITIONS The probability, in percent, that the cyclone center will pass within 50 miles to the right or 75 miles to the left of the listed locations within the indicated time period when looking at the coast in the direction of the cyclone's movement.
TROPICAL CYCLONE PUBLIC ADVISORIES Serve as the primary tropical cyclone information products issued by Tropical Cyclone Centers for the general public. They are issued after a confirmed tropical cyclone has developed. Sub-group product names in this category are: Special Public Advisory, Intermediate Public Advisory, Tropical Depression Advisory, Subtropical Cyclone Public Advisory, and Special Public Subtropical Forecast/Advisory.
TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATES Brief statements issued in lieu of or preceding special advisories to inform of significant changes in a tropical cyclone, or to post or cancel watches and warnings.
TROPICAL STORM WATCH An announcement that a tropical storm or tropical storm conditions pose a threat to coastal areas generally within 36 hours. A tropical storm watch is not usually issued if a tropical cyclone is forecast to attain hurricane strength.
TROPICAL STORM WARNING A warning that sustained winds of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph) inclusive are expected in specified coastal areas within 24 hours.
TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION & OUTLOOK & SUMMARY The discussion describes significant synoptic (large-scale) weather features in the tropics. The outlook discusses significant areas of disturbed weather in the tropics and subtropics and their potential for tropical cyclone development out to 48 hours. The summary is prepared after each month to summarize the previous month's tropical cyclone activity and the reasons why.


The Saffir/Simpson Scale rates the present intensity of a hurricane from one to five. This can be used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected. In practice, wind speed is the parameter that determines the intensity category since storm surge is highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf.

1 74-95 4-5 MINOR
2 96-110 6-8 MODERATE
3 111-130 9-12 MAJOR
4 131-155 13-18 SEVERE
5 GREATER THAN 155 GREATER THAN 18 CATASTROPHIC is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.