To be able to forecast weather conditions, understand global climate change and conduct meteorological and oceanographic research, we need to be able to collect, measure and transmit a substantial volume of data.
Collecting this information allows scientists and researchers to identify significant patterns and trends. There are many different measures which can be used to gather this data, such as wind speed and direction, air temperature, sea-surface and sub-surface temperature, rainfall, atmospheric pressure, wave period and height, humidity and currents.
Predicting weather occurrences with data buoys
These days, there are some fantastic ways to collect this kind of information. For example, the UK Met Office gathers observations from voluntary observing ships, Argo floats, shipborne automatic weather stations, drifting buoys and marine automatic weather stations which include offshore installations, lights vessels and moored data buoys.
Let’s take a closer look at data buoys. Large solar panel arrays, lots of sensors, St. Andrew’s Cross and an all-yellow colour distinguish a data buoy from other types of buoys — although the amount and type of sensors used will differ depending on the application. These real-time sensors allow the buoy to detect, monitor and transmit various weather and oceanographic occurrences such as hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis, fish migration patterns, rising sea levels and increasing water temperatures.
A typical data buoy consists of two main components: the hull and the tower. The hull supports the tower and contains the mooring points. Any underwater instrumentation packages — which collect data including sea temperature, water conductivity and depth — will be secured in the hull.
The tower then provides a suitable platform for mounting solar panels, which recharge the data buoy’s battery bank, and other terrestrial sensory instruments. Terrestrial instrumentation can collect a range of atmospheric information such as air temperature, wind speed and direction.
When selecting a data buoy, it is vital to choose a tower of sufficient size to accommodate the equipment and solar panels and match this with a hull which can support the tower and mooring in the location it is to be used.
A diverse range of data buoy platforms
As the UK and Ireland’s leading supplier of marine aids to navigation and data buoys, Hydrosphere has delivered a diverse range of data buoy platforms for a variety of meteorological and scientific applications over the years.
In the past, we have designed and supplied deep-ocean moored buoys to the UK Met Office as part of our three-year contract. These buoys replaced the old K Series ODAS buoys, which were previously installed at marine automatic weather stations extending from the North West of Scotland to the Bay of Biscay.
The buoys are moored in water depths varying from 40 metres in the western approaches to 4,500 metres in deep open ocean sites. The weather conditions at these sites can be extreme. In December, the K3 buoy measured a significant wave height of 18.2m; in March, the K2 measured a wave height of 17.6m — the two highest wave events ever recorded by the network.
The maximum wave heights (crest to trough) would, therefore, have been nearly twice this significant wave height. As such, the meteorological sensors and antennae are mounted within a sturdy protection ring, which shields the equipment while still allowing exposure to the elements they are installed to measure.
This early example was designed and manufactured by Hydrosphere. However, since 2002, all our buoys have been designed with Mobilis using the manufacturer’s proven navigation buoys as the base platform.
All of these buoys have been carefully developed to suit the bespoke requirements of our customers and supplied with a selection of sensors tailored to the application.