Marine weather buoy to bring economic, social and safety benefits

The first offshore marine weather buoy to be positioned in the Irish Sea will further increase the accuracy of weather forecasts for this busy route that will have direct benefits for sailors, ferry crossings and fishermen. It is the second buoy in Ireland's Marine Data Buoy Network and will be deployed about 20nautical miles east of Lambay (53º 28.8'N, 5º 25.5'W) on May 3, 2001, by the national Research Vessel Celtic Voyager.

The Marine Institute will also formally launch a website this week that will provide seafarers with real time data from the buoy 'M2' every hour, twenty four/seven. Data from the first buoy 'M1', positioned West of the Aran Islands is already available on this site or on Met Éireann's weatherdial Fax. Crucial observations of wind (direction, speed & gusts) air and sea-surface temperature, wave height and period, and atmospheric pressure are all updated every hour.

"A significant number of people are taking to the waters for social and commercial purposes", said Yvonne Shields, Director of Science, Technology and Innovation at the Marine Institute. "This real time data about the Irish Sea, available at the touch of button through our website, will be welcomed by commercial ferry operators and by sailors as summer holidays approach and the sailing season begins", she continued.

Passenger ferries are totally dependent on accurate weather information. More than 50 passenger crossings take place daily on the Irish Sea. According to Irish Ferries one cancellation can cost up to £30,000. They believe 'M2' will provide more precise localised weather observations for the Irish Sea, which will benefit forecasting and allow ferry operators to optimise their sailing schedules.

According to Met Éireann, this buoy will give unprecedented and valuable information about the marine environment in the Irish Sea. They highlighted the long-term benefits of ongoing observations in relation to extreme weather conditions that offshore structures such as wind farms could be subjected to.

"Climate change questions like whether our waters are becoming rougher or stormier can only be answered using long periods of weather observations in specific locations, such as will be provided by the buoy network", said Mr Declan Murphy, Director of Met Éireann.

The buoy network is a joint venture between the Marine Institute, Met Éireann and the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources. The Irish Sea buoy deployment means that two of the proposed five buoys are now in place. The other planned locations are South of Wexford, South of Valentia and North of Belmullet.