On April 1, 2018, engineers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography deployed a wave monitoring buoy 10 nautical miles due south of Bahia Honda Key, in about 550 feet of water. The buoy is funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and operated and maintained by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as part of the nationwide Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP). The buoy is also maintained in partnership with the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association. Initial discussions regarding a wave monitoring buoy in the Straits of Florida arose during the 14th International Workshop on Wave Hindcasting and Forecasting & 5th Coastal Hazard Symposium, which was held at the Marriott Beachside Hotel in Key West, in November 2015. Staff from the NOAA/Florida Keys National Weather Service (NWS) attended the week-long workshop and also hosted a visit by the attendees to the NWS facility on White Street in Key West. Discussions during this workshop concerning the lack of wave data around southern Florida contributed to the 2018 buoy deployment.
Every 30 minutes, the new buoy reports local ocean wave conditions such as wave height, wave period, wave direction, surface current velocity, and sea surface temperature. The information is disseminated in real time on the web at cdip.ucsd.edu (buoy 237 “Big Pine Key”), and on the NOAA website at ndbc.noaa.gov (buoy 42078). Moreover, your Florida Keys National Weather Service broadcasts the information on VHF marine radio weather channels 2 and 5.
Data from this buoy will be useful for coastal engineers, the large and diverse Florida Keys marine community, and the numerous large ships that transit the Straits of Florida (40% of the world’s maritime commerce passes through the Straits of Florida according to a Department of Defense study). The buoy will also help improve the quality and value of National Weather Service marine weather analyses, warnings, and forecasts in the Straits of Florida and around the Florida Keys.
Several factors were considered during the site selection process, including depth, prevalence of strong currents, vessel traffic patterns, proximity to restricted areas, other environmental observation sites, and gaps in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wave Information Studies program. Researchers from the University of Miami (Dr. Villy Kourafalou) and University of South Florida (Dr. Bob Weisberg) were consulted during the planning stage. Their models of the Florida Current provided critical information for choosing a deployment site.
The buoy is a surface follower that maintains its position by use of an elastic mooring system, and will be adversely affected if vessels attempt to tie up to it.
The deployment of this new buoy was a substantial investment, and it will provide valuable ocean data to numerous stakeholders in the Florida Keys, hopefully, for years to come. This deployment represents a large step in the direction toward the Florida Keys truly becoming a “marine weather-ready” community. Have a great summer!
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