Forget trendy ring tones and images of your favourite pop star! The ultimate phone accessory for anyone interested in the sea these days is connection to the Marine Institute's network of five floating weather stations around the Irish Coast, giving weather forecasts, shipping bulletins, gale and swell warnings, as well as public information and research news, all delivered by SMS text message direct to your mobile phone. The service has already proved extremely popular with surfers hoping to catch the hottest waves, and with small boat fishermen, yachtsmen and other water users.
The weather buoy network was set up as a recommendation of the Fishing Vessel Safety Review Group, convened by the then Department of the Marine after the loss of the trawler Carrigatine in 1995. This led to a joint venture, between the Department, the Marine Institute, Met Eireann and the UK Met Office to position a network of automatic weather buoys around the coast of Ireland; which was completed in October last year with the laying of the last unit, Buoy M5, off the Waterford/Wexford coast.
Each buoy has a bright yellow body for high visibility, supporting a stainless steel superstructure carrying its satellite communication equipment and meteorological sensors. These sensors include an anemometer, which records the speed of the wind in knots every five minutes and a wind vane which records the average wind direction. Each buoy also measures relative humidity, an important factor in measuring the saturation of the air with water vapour and predicting rain.
As well as measuring conditions in the atmosphere, each buoy also monitors the temperature of the sea below it and the amount of salt it contains (the salinity) with a "Seabird" temperature and conductivity meter. These measurements are vital to the monitoring of ocean currents, to understanding global warming and potential climate change. Anyone who has seen the film "The Day After Tomorrow" will have seen the fictional weather disasters which overcame the USA and England first predicted by a sudden dramatic drop in seawater temperature as the North Atlantic gyre collapsed due to melting ice from the Arctic. Hopefully, this will never happen in reality.
The film also depicted a gigantic tidal wave flooding New York. While this was also a fictional event, each of the five databuoys around the Irish coast is also fitted with a "heave sensor" inside the hull of the buoy to measure significant wave height together with their "frequency", which relates to the speed at which they move past the buoy. This allows meteorologists and oceanographers to predict any "storm surges" - dramatic increases in wave height that can pose a danger to mariners and offshore industries - albeit on a smaller scale than the fictional wave that flooded New York in the film.
All this information is then transmitted by satellite communications to the shore and is now available as an SMS text service to mobile phones. To log onto the scheme and specify the number of SMS messages you require, log onto the Marine Institute's eStore at: https://www.marine.ie/eStore
When your order has been confirmed, you can use the Marine Institute website to specify when and under what conditions you wish to receive the SMS messages (e.g. which buoy, what day, what time, and which specific data parameter conditions etc.). You can change this configuration at any stage. Text messages cost only €0.28 each.
Accurate positions of the buoys as well as a host of other information, can be also downloaded online from www.marine.ie/databouy where information is updated every hour.
This web page has been improved recently to include graphic representations 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. The web page also displays the real-time position of each of the Marine Institute's two research vessels, Celtic Explorer and Celtic Voyager.