Ireland upgrades Marine Data Buoy Network in face of climate change

4 Dec 2018

From left: Minister Michael Creed, TD; Dr Peter Heffernan, Marine Institute; and Evelyn Cusack, Met Éireann. Image: Darragh Kane

Silent sentinels in the sea stand guard against violent weather pattern changes.

Ireland has invested more than €700,000 to upgrade its Marine Data Buoy Network system to safeguard the country and provide early warnings and forecasts as weather patterns become more unpredictable.

The Marine Data Buoy Network is managed by the Marine Institute in collaboration with Met Éireann. The network provides crucial data for weather forecasting, risk management for shipping, advance warnings for the fishing community and coastal towns and villages, as well as oceanography research and data on Ireland’s deep waters.

‘With the incidences of extreme weather conditions increasing, the Government’s investment in the Irish Marine Data Buoy Network is very significant but essential’

With an additional injection of €300,000, the total investment for the network in 2018 amounts to more than €700,000. This investment will enable the upgrade of the network with new-generation buoy platforms and a suite of sensors, replacing the current technology that has been in use since 2008.

“Investment in the observation buoys and other infrastructures and research capacities will enable Ireland to be at the forefront in providing critical research capacity and overcoming infrastructure gaps that, in the past, have reduced our ability to address questions of national and global importance with respect to climate and ocean change,” explained Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute.

Climate change impact is felt

These buoys act as a system of sentinels that sit hundreds of kilometres out to sea in the Atlantic and warn of mounting danger.

During Hurricane Ophelia in 2017, waves were recorded at a maximum height of 17.8 meters by the M5 weather buoy off the south-east coast. In 2011, the M4 weather buoy located 75km north of Belmullet on the north-west coast of Ireland saw the largest waves recorded in Irish waters, reaching a maximum height of 20.4 meters.

The most westerly buoy, M6, located hundreds of kilometres to the west of Ireland, is a sentinel buoy that gathers critical early data reported hourly on weather approaching Ireland and Europe from the Atlantic.

“The data buoys provide vital information about our weather such as atmospheric pressure, air and sea temperature, wind speed and direction,” said Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Éireann. “This information is used in the weather forecasting models run by Met Éireann that provides guidance to the national emergency planning efforts during extreme weather events, including storms such as Ophelia and Emma.”

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed, TD, said that with the impact of climate change becoming more apparent, the Irish Government recognised the importance of investing in the Marine Data Buoy Network system.

“This increased expenditure will greatly assist our ocean and weather forecasting capabilities in the years ahead as well as supporting vital climate change research and improving safety at sea. Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing nations, governments and decision-makers worldwide.

“With the incidences of extreme weather conditions increasing, the Government’s investment in the Irish Marine Data Buoy Network is very significant but essential. This ongoing and additional funding will enable the Marine Institute to provide essential national services in ocean observation and weather forecasting programmes that have regional and local impact on our livelihoods, safety and the growing blue economy.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years