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Breakdown: Why buoys are an important weather tool

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 6:02 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Buoys are an important weather tool. They can measure air temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure and wind direction. Buoys are over oceans and lakes and they also measure water temperature and wave heights. They can also help scientist to monitor hard to reach areas. Some buoys drift along the ocean while gathering data. They can allow scientist to observe changes over several years.

Buoys can also be key when it comes to chemical spills, thanks to the ocean data that they collect. There are several types of buoys. Moored buoys or those that are attached to the ocean floor have been in use since the early 1950s. They stay attached to the ocean floor through chains, nylon, or buoyant polypropylene. Drifting buoys were created in the late 1970s. The buoys can face rough weather and are anchored using anything from chains in shallow waters to heavy-duty, polypropylene rope in deeper waters. The buoys are serviced every two years to try to keep up with corrosion.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a network of buoys were put in place in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and this helped study the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Moored weather buoys range from 5–40 ft in diameter, while drifting buoys are smaller, 12-16 inches in diameter.

Drifting buoys are the dominant form of weather buoys and are about 1250 worldwide.

The most recent buoy to come about is the hurricane buoy. Many of the hurricane buoys are located in the western North Atlantic Ocean. These buoys can measure winds, waves, and barometric pressure, as well as air and sea temperatures.

The information they obtain can be used to gather data gathered and can determine hurricane formation or when a storm dissipates. It can also help detect the extent of wind circulation, and center location. The hurricane buoys are more durable than other weather buoys. Hurricane buoys contain an internal back-up system and will allow NOAA to attain more data in an area where hurricanes happen more frequently.

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