TILLAMOOK - A state-of-the-art weather buoy deployed off the north Oregon coast promises improved weather predictions.
"This new buoy increases the ability of the National Weather Service to forecast marine and coastal weather," said Patrick Corcoran, an Oregon State University Sea Grant Extension faculty member who serves as outreach coordinator for the Coastal Storms Initiative (CSI).
The CSI is a federal-state partnership connecting residents and stakeholders in the coastal areas of Oregon and southwest Washington with new weather-and storm-related information tools. Corcoran said that the buoy specifically enhances surface marine data and the ability of the National Weather Service to issue heavy surf advisories and coastal flood warnings.
"Since it's positioned between the 300-mile buoys and the 20-mile buoys, buoy 46089 fills an important gap in tracking the development of severe weather off the Oregon coast," he added.
"The data from the new buoy has already been very useful in our forecast operations," agreed Bill Schneider of the National Weather Service in Portland. Indeed, in its first weekend of operation in November, "the buoy allowed us to separate our outer and inner waters forecast when the buoy showed stronger winds over the outer waters," said Schneider. "It also gave us a good heads-up when small craft advisory force winds moved into the waters and allowed us to issue an advisory. We did not expect winds to be that strong and would have otherwise not known until the front reached buoy 46029."
The new buoy, located 70 miles off Tillamook Bay, is loaded with atmospheric and marine observation devices, according to Corcoran.
"It's the first buoy of its type to be deployed with such an expanded sensor array," he said.
Meteorological measurements on board buoy 46089 include air temperature, continuous wind speed, peak wind and gusts, atmospheric pressure, and dew point temperature. Oceanographic measurements include water temperature, wave height, significant wave height, directional wave spectra, non-directional wave spectra, and directional ocean currents.
The ocean current data is measured by an experimental device called an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler. The buoy reports real-time quality-controlled data to a ground receiving station and from there to other users including the National Weather Service.
The buoy will bring new ability to calibrate and compare satellite wind and wave predictions with what's really happening at the surface, said OSU's Corcoran.
In addition, he said, understanding offshore wind speed and direction improves the ability to predict how the wind will interact with the mountains, which is crucial for predicting how much rain will fall and the potential for flooding.
This buoy is one of the first of its kind to use iridium satellite technology, rather than the Geostationary Earth Orbiting Satellite.
The iridium satellite allows for both the transmission of more data and the ability to communicate with the buoy from shore. Data from the buoy are continually transmitted via iridium satellite to the National Data Buoy Center.
The center updates its online buoy reports hourly. These can be found at http://seaboard.ndbc.noaa.gov/Maps/Northwest.shtml. Users can also telephone Dial-A-Buoy at (228) 688-1948 and key in 46089 (for the Tillamook buoy) when prompted for the station indicator.
Funding for the buoy came from the Coastal Storms Initiative through NOAA - the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Oregon Sea Grant and Washington Sea Grant are partners with NOAA in the Coastal Storms Initiative, which is intended to improve storm prediction, preparation and recovery efforts.
Faculty from OSU, University of Washington, and other institutions are working with NOAA researchers on several projects, including a near-shore wave prediction model, a toxicological assessment of storm runoff, and computer software for assessing local risk and vulnerability to hazards created by coastal storms. Sea Grant Extension is providing outreach and education about the initiative to stakeholders.