Skip Navigation   
NOAA logo - Click to go to the NOAA homepage National Weather Service Forecast Office   NWS logo - Click to go to the NWS homepage
Wilmington, NC

Local forecast by
"City, St"


Frying Pan Shoals Climatology

The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower and more recently the weather buoy have provided mariners in the Cape Fear region with weather and wave information for over 20 years.  The following is a climatological summary of the data in the period from 1984 to 2003.  Special thanks to Dr. Fred Bingham, University of North Carolina at Wilmington Center for Marine Science for developing the graphics.


The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower has served as a navigational fixture to the Cape Fear area since 1966 when it was installed.  The Texas Tower platform was installed to replace lightships that have served as beacons anchored in the shoals area since 1854.  In 1984 the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) installed a... (Read more...)

Frying Pan Shoals Climatological Information

Air Temperature:  The air temperature at Frying Pan Shoals is dictated by two main features: the Gulf Stream and the cooler shelf waters during the winter months. The coolest average temperature occurs in January (55 deg. F) however... (Read more and view plot...)

Extremes: Highest Temp.  89 F July 31, 1999   Lowest Temp.  11 F Jan 21, 1985 

Sea Surface Temperature:  The sea surface temperature is warmest during August (82 deg. F) and coldest during February (62 deg. F).  The greatest variation in sea surface temperature occurs December through March, which is likely a result of... (Read more and view plot...)

Extremes: Highest Temp.  90 F August 29, 1987   Lowest Temp.  49 F Jan 27, 1985 

Wave Height:  The average wave height is highest from December through March with a secondary peak around September as a result of hurricanes (the peak of Hurricane Season is September 10). Meanwhile waves average 4 ft or less from... (Read more and view plots...)

Extremes: Highest Wave Height  31.5 Feet September 5, 1996 (Hurricane Fran) 

Air Pressure:  The average yearly pressure at Frying Pan Shoals is 1017.9 millibars (30.06 inches).  The highest average pressure occurs in December at 1020.0 millibars (30.12 inches) and the lowest occurs in April and May at 1016.4 millibars (30.01 inches).  The greatest standard deviation in pressure occurs from Jan-Mar which signifies a period of significant changes, likely a result of Nor'Easters and sprawling areas of cold high pressure moving over the shoals.  The semi-permanent Bermuda High (which is weaker than winter time high pressure systems) becomes nearly anchored during the warm season off the Southeast United States Coast.  The position and persistence of the Bermuda High only results in relatively subtle changes to the air pressure during the summer.

Extremes: Highest Press  1043.7 mb Feb 26, 1990 Lowest Press  958.6 mb Sep 16, 1990 (Hurr. Floyd) 

Wind Direction and Speed: The yearly average wind speed at Frying Pan Shoals is 15 knots*.  The highest average wind speed occurs in January (18 knots), while the lowest occurs in August (13 knots).  Wind rose plots show two main... (Read more and view plots...)

Extremes: Highest Recorded Wind Speed  107.7 knots (123 mph)  Sep 5, 1996 (Hurricane Fran) 

* The anemometer height was at 44.2 meters when the equipment was located on the Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower (1984-2003).

National Weather Service
Wilmington Weather Forecast Office
2015 Gardner Drive
Wilmington, NC 28405
(910) 762-4289

Click here to contact Webmaster
Page Last Modified July 31, 2005
Disclaimer Privacy Policy