We see buoys floating around in the water all the time.
Ever wondered what it is they're doing out there?
Well, without them, we wouldn't have any real-time information regarding surf conditions before heading out in the waves or the necessary meteorological details we need to measure and predict the weather.
Essentially, without them, coastal towns would be blind to the height and direction of the waves.
Come dive in with us as we explore the ins and outs of ocean buoys and all of their uses.
What Is The Purpose Of A Buoy In The Ocean?
Ocean buoys are made to collect a wide range of real-time data, including:
National meteorological centers, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, place these buoys out in the open ocean to collect information regarding the weather.
In all, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) manage 1,300 weather buoys, which you can find deployed throughout the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
These buoys can track and forecast numerous weather events, including cloud formations, hurricanes, precipitation, wind gusts, extreme temperatures, and high surf. They are also often used to activate warnings and alerts for numerous entities, including:
How Do Buoys Stay In Place?
For buoys to stay in place, they must be anchored below the surface of the water. Manufacturers will use three types of anchors to keep them anchored, including:
Most anchors last for around 12 years before they must be replaced. However, many can last for well over three decades if properly maintained.
How Much Do Ocean Buoys Cost?
Depending on the types of integrated sensors, weather buoys can cost up to $50,000 or more. Private buyers can easily spend up to $5,000 each month for deployment, annual maintenance, and eventual retrieval.
Ocean Buoy Data
The types of air, wind and wave measurements collected are known as forecast models.
Computers have several ways of reading and representing these forecast models, though most come out in the form of wind maps and swell charts.
Some of the most prevalent mathematical models for forecasts include:
Wave buoys create an array of measurements, not actual predictions. These measurements are then put into a system to help the wind and weather models run. Buoys know how to read wind direction and the two types of coastal winds that buoys detect include onshore and offshore winds.
From shoaling effects to refraction, buoys can provide us with a surprising amount of in-depth measurements so that we can have reliable surf forecasts. If you're interested in learning more about surf swells, or what happens after swells pass the deep ocean buoy, and move closer to the shoreline, see our article on why do waves break and the science behind it.
FUN FACT: Beyond ocean buoys, lighthouses, cargo ships, and oil platforms can send out air, wind, and water information, helping us input more in-depth meteorological data into our various systems and mathematical models.