Weather Buoys

National Buoy Data Center Station #46025 anchored at Catalina Island

Stretched across the world ocean are a number of steadfast ocean monitoring systems called weather buoys. These workhorses of the sea provide data where none would otherwise exist. They discovered the presence of El Nino in 1983 although scientists initially ignored the high temperatures they reported.

In my ocean-going travels, I've had the opportunity to watch the deployment of similar moored instrument arrays. A mooring is a device "attached" to the bottom of the ocean; on these moorings a number of instruments for measuring ocean and atmosphere properties can be attached. It's quite an extraordinary process to launch these beasts: everything has to be attached and ready to go once they are dropped into the water. Considering that some of them are anchored in water that may be thousands of feet deep, that's a lot of cable to watch swirl into the sea. A typical buoy deployment is shown below.

The types of buoys used by NOAA are shown below. The type of buoy deployed at a given region of the ocean will depend on the depth of the bottom, the types of measurements desired and the sea conditions.

Deploying and retrieving buoys requires a great deal of skill and care. NOAA's ships make regular trips to service and maintain their fleet of buoys. Yet the information they provide on sea conditions is invaluable. No other method of measurement provides such detailed continuous information at one location. In this regard, buoys excel at providing good temporal (time-related) coverage of the seas.

Can you think of a type of measurement that provides good spatial coverage? Why are both spatial and temporal measurements of the oceans important? Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of satellites, buoys and ships? How is each one unique in the data it provides? What are the limitations of each type of measurement? These are the types of questions I expect you to be able to answer on the exam.

Please take the virtual tour at the National Data Buoy Center.

NDBC Station 46025: Catalina$station=46025