Irish Marine Data Buoy Observation Network

The Irish Marine Data Buoy Observation Network (IMDBON) was originally established 20 years ago to provide essential meteorological and sea state information to forecasters, marine users, and researchers to improve the accuracy and temporal range of mainland and coastal forecasts to enhance safety at sea. The network of five offshore marine observation buoys around Ireland is managed by the Marine Institute in collaboration with Met Éireann, and funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Since 2001, the IMDBON has been reporting hourly weather measurements of air temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction as well sea surface temperature, wave height and wave period. The data from the network is used by Met Eireann’s forecasting systems, shared globally through the World Meteorological Organisation’s Global Telecommunications System, and quality controlled for climatological purposes. All the IMDBON platforms provide critical data, but the most westerly, Buoy M6, located hundreds of kilometres to the west of Ireland is recognised by the European meteorological services network, EUMETNET, as one of only four European sentinel synoptic weather buoys that directly provides strategically important data to support forecasting services throughout Europe.

A major capital grant (18/RI/5731) through Science Foundation Ireland’s Research Infrastructures programme enabled a complete upgrade of the IMDBON infrastructure, with a new generation of buoys, new sensors, and data acquisition systems replacing the old technology used for almost a decade.

While the IMDBON is fundamental national infrastructure for ensuring maritime safety, it offers considerable added value to a number of sectors. IMDBON data is now used across a range of national and international programmes and services in addition to weather forecasting; the network provides vital data for shipping bulletins, gale and swell warnings, as well as data for oceanographic monitoring, climate observations, general public information and research. 

In total, the IMDBON platforms monitor eight of the Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) including;
• surface air temperature,
• surface wind speed and direction,
• atmospheric pressure,
• surface ocean temperature,
• subsurface ocean temperature,
• surface ocean salinity
• subsurface ocean salinity, and,
• sea state.

Measurements from IMDBON are available in real time on the Marine Institute’s visualisation website and incorporate graphic representation of data, so that trends can be easily seen, as well as technical information on the buoys, their accurate positions and the latest detailed readings from each of the sensors.