Upgrade of Irish coastal buoys to aid weather forecasting

Marine data buoy network is used to help predict extreme weather events

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed  with Marine Institute CEO Peter Heffernan and Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Éireann at the announcement of a €700,000 investment  in the marine data buoy network. Photograph: Darragh Kane

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed with Marine Institute CEO Peter Heffernan and Evelyn Cusack, head of forecasting at Met Éireann at the announcement of a €700,000 investment in the marine data buoy network. Photograph: Darragh Kane

 

The ability to predict extreme weather events increasingly facing Ireland due to climate change is to be enhanced with high-tech upgrades to the marine data buoy network deployed around the Irish coastline.

Details of the initiative were announced by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed on Monday while on board the research vessel RV Celtic Explorer, when docked in the port of Cork.

“With the impacts of climate change ever more apparent, the Government recognises the importance of increased investment in the existing marine data buoy network system,” he said.

The €700,000 investment would “greatly assist our ocean and weather forecasting capabilities in the years ahead as well as supporting vital climate change research and improving safety at sea”.

The network is managed by the Marine Institute in collaboration with Met Éireann. It provides crucial data for weather forecasting, risk management for shipping and fishing communities with advanced warnings as well as oceanography research.

Met Éireann head of forecasting Evelyn Cusack said the buoys provided vital information such as atmospheric pressure, air and sea temperature, wind speed and direction.

“This is used in the forecasting models run by Met Éireann, that provides guidance to the national emergency planning efforts during extreme weather events including storms such as Ophelia and Emma,” she said.

Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan, said the funding would also enable Ireland to be at the forefront in providing critical research capacity and overcoming infrastructure gaps “that, in the past, have reduced our ability to address questions of national and global importance with respect to climate and ocean change”.

20 metre waves

During hurricane Ophelia in 2017, waves were recorded at a maximum height of 17.8 metres by the M5 buoy off the southeast coast. In 2011, the M4 buoy, located 75km north of Belmullet on the northwest coast of Ireland, recorded the largest waves recorded in Irish waters, reaching a maximum height of 20.4 metres.

The most westerly buoy, M6, located hundreds of kilometres to the west of Ireland, gathers critical early data reported hourly on weather approaching Ireland and Europe from the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Natural Resources Sean Canney has launched guidelines to help local authorities prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Under the national adaptation framework, all local authorities are required to adopt a local adaptation strategy to ensure consistency and coherency across all local authorities, especially in responding to extreme weather.

Speaking in Athlone, Mr Canney said local authorities, as the level of government closest to communities, had a key role to play.

“The sector has already demonstrated a very effective response to extreme weather events over recent years and with the recent establishment of the four climate action regional offices it can now build on this emergency response capacity and drive climate action at local level,” he said.