A wave height of 20.4 meters was recorded yesterday (13th December 2011) by the M4 weather buoy located 75km north of Belmullet on the north west coast of Ireland. The M4 buoy forms part of the Irish Weather Buoy Network which began in 2000 and is funded by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and run by the Marine Institute in collaboration with Met Eireann and the UKMO.
"This is the largest wave measured on the Weather buoy network to date. However, these recordings are a result of the next generation buoy which was deployed last year. Historically, only the significant wave height could be measured by the older buoys, where heights of between 10 and 13 meters were typically recorded around the coast during winter. The next generation buoys allow us to record and transmit both significant wave height and maximum wave heights as part of our hourly observations," explains Sheena Fennell, oceanographer with the Marine Institute.
Over the last number of years the network has been going through a transitional phase replacing the older models with next generation buoys supplied by Fugro Oceanor. The combination of high quality real time measurements coming from the offshore buoys and coastal systems, coupled with the mathematical forecasting models, is extending the well proven ability of scientists and engineers to accurately forecast the atmospheric conditions and sea state of the ocean.
"With the development in technology we are now able to record maximum wave heights which the older style buoys couldn't do. This parameter will form an important part of forecasting as we move forward." Sheena Fennell further said.
The information allows meteorologists and the Irish Coastguard to alert the public and seafarers with weather warnings though the normal Met Eireann weather reports on both TV and Radio.
Locations of the Weather Bouys and real time reading can be viewed on the Weather Buoy Network Page of the Marine Institute website.