Cold Fronts and Kayaking

We often hear on the radio, tv or read on our favorite weather website about a cold front that’s going to pass. The big question is what does this really mean, what happens and can you see it coming? This last week we had a pretty impressive cold front sweep through and produce a nearly perfect graph.

Wikipedia defines a Cold Front as

A cold front is defined as the leading edge of a cooler mass of air, replacing (at ground level) a warmer mass of air.

These high-pressure fronts are often easily identified by a row of steep clouds that appear to march across the sky. We can see one such example in the image here from Halls Harbor Nova Scotia. These cold fronts aren’t just a pretty line of clouds they are also often accompanied by a sudden shift in wind direction, drop in temperature and an eventual increase in pressure. If you’re out on the water this can complicate your trip. Where you might have been paddling with the wind at your back once a cold front passes over you you can quickly be paddling directly into the wind.

It’s not only the wind direction that can potentially ruin your paddle, as we can see from this image wind speeds can increase dramatically. From a paltry 20kph to a blustery 88-111kph in less than 30 minutes. This is coupled with a drop of about 7 degrees in temperature. These cold fronts aren’t all bad… at least for us kayakers. With the front comes wind; wind means waves. The Cold front in this graph was part of a major storm system which provided us with organized swells around two meters and a period of 10 seconds.

The day after this cold front moved in East Coast Outfitters guide Karl Vollmer and Guide in Training Tobias Witter headed down to Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia to check out the wake of this storm. The weather that day was a balmy -8C, Winds less then 10knots to light, Water temperature 2C. Swell, 1.5meters. The below video is what happened. This is a reminder to everyone, always paddle with a buddy and never push yourself too far especially in cold conditions. A lost paddle is better then a lost paddler.

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