Lifebuoys around Irish coast to provide ‘near realtime data’ on storms

Move comes in response to heightened risk of storm surges exacerbated by climate change

The Ballybunion Buoy is unhooked from a crane in Dún Laoghaire, ready to be towed to Irish Lights ship ILV Granuaile.

Irish navigation lifebuoys are being enhanced with digital devices to enable people to be alerted more promptly on risk of storm surges, high wave conditions and coastal damage.

A number of the devices located around the country are already providing “near real-time data” on a trial basis, with a view to extending their use throughout the network of navigation lifebuoys close to the Irish coastline.

The initiative is being undertaken by Met Éireann and Irish Lights to assist people at sea and those based close to coastlines.

Navigation buoys operated by Irish Lights equipped with new sensors are providing weather and wave data for Met Éireann’s Flood Forecasting Division “to develop coastal predictive modelling systems for tidal, storm surge and wave forecasting for the country”.

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Seas around the island of Ireland are changing due to climate change while both organisations are developing new services to help build resilience in the face of inevitable impacts.

In line with the Government’s climate priorities, “a better understanding of our adjacent seas is needed including the wave conditions around the Irish coast”, they acknowledged at the launch on Tuesday – which coincided with the feast day of St Brigid, the patron saint of sailors.

Possible expansion

Director of e-navigation and maritime services for Irish Lights Ronan Boyle said his organisation was already closely aligned with Met Éireann, "with our [SHARED]vision of protecting lives, property, trade and the environment by delivering next generation maritime services".

“We look forward to a successful completion of the trial period and a possible future expansion of this monitoring network for the safety of all,” he added.

The data benefits Met Éireann’s forecasts before, during and after coastal flood events. “This meteorological and hydrographic information provided by Irish Lights will support stakeholders to make impact-based decisions and take actions that protect against the loss of life and to mitigate against damage to property and the environment,” Mr Boyle said.

Hydrometeorologist at Met Éireann Rosemarie Lawlor said: "This important capacity building collaboration is an exciting first step in building on our understanding of Irish seas and coasts, and continues the essential work of improving safety of our coastal and marine areas."

Buoys featuring in the trial are Ballybunion buoy in Shannon Estuary; Finnis buoy in Galway Bay, South Hunter buoy near Larne and Splaugh buoy in Rosslare.

Met Éireann procured and provided Irish Lights with wave sensors, data loggers and modems and developed quality control systems to test the data in collaboration with Irish Lights and the Marine Institute.

Over recent months, Irish Lights installed, tested and commissioned the sensors on each buoy which measures wave height, wave period and wave direction. Data transmission is available at Met Éireann's website – https://www.met.ie/forecasts/marine-inland-lakes/buoys – and through Irish lights at https://cilpublic.cil.ie/metocean/ .

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times