June 23, 2009 — A system that uses buoys to generate real time data on winds, waves, currents, and seawater is in the works. The Caribbean Integrated Coastal Ocean Observing System, as it's called, will provide useful information for scientists, people in the marine industry and folks heading for the beach when it's fully operational in three to four years, University of the Virgin Islands Assistant Professor Nasseer Idrisi said Tuesday.
The first buoy, which is seven feet tall, was deployed in about 50 feet of water 1.6 miles south of Puerto Rico in early June under the auspices of the Caribbean Regional Association.
"It's a test run. We need to do quality assurance and quality control," Idrisi said.
It will take about a year before that buoy is fully functioning, Idrisi said.
Another similar buoy will soon be installed at a second location off Puerto Rico's south coast, with several smaller buoys to be in place off St. Thomas and St. Croix over the next few years.
When the entire system is fully functioning, the data will be available to anyone who's interested at the Caribbean Regional Association's website.
"Ship captains, ferries, small aircraft, the tourism industry, surfers, beach-goers, charter boat captains, small craft owners, and boaters," Idrisi said, ticking off a list of people who might want to know about the data.
The wind data includes direction and speed. The wave data covers height and frequency, while the current data includes speed and direction. The sea water data has temperature and salinity.
Idrisi spoke about the importance of the sea water data in predicting hurricanes and determining events like the arrival of the recent algae plume that turned the water around the territory from clear blue to a cloudy green. He said the plume flowed north from the Orinoco and Amazon areas of South America. (See "Algae Plume Is The Marine Guest That Won't Leave.")
"The temperature was increasing and the salinity decreasing. This told us the algae plume was getting closer," Idrisi said.
The buoy program also includes the installation of five weather stations around St. Thomas and St. John. However, Idrisi requested that residents with good-quality home weather stations contact him to expand the database.
The Caribbean Regional Association is a collaborative effort between UVI and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, its mission is to provide coastal data.
To contact Idrisi with weather station data, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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