Attention boaters: the new wave buoy placed 10 miles off Bahia Honda State Park April 1 is here to help. Does the water look calm but not sure? Is it safe to go out with the kids or without Dramamine? There is a big difference between one- and five-foot waves.

“This buoy will help make that ‘go, no go’ decision, because it can be the last piece of intel boaters use to make their choice whether to go out on the water that day,” said Chip Kasper, senior forecaster-marine program meteorologist at The Key West’s National Weather Service office. The new buoy was funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is operated and maintained by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Its purpose is real time wave monitoring. The Weather Service will broadcast the information on VHF weather channels 2 and 5 every 30 minutes, or go to the web at cdip.ucsd.edu (buoy 237 Big Pine Key) or ndbc.noaa.gov (buoy 42078).

The location of the new wave monitoring buoy. NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE/Contributed

“The buoy measures the height and the period, meaning time between the crest of the waves, to calculate steepness,” said Kasper. “Also, it will reflect currents as well.” Data including wave height, peak wave period, peak wave direction, average wave period, sea surface temperature, and horizontal current velocity (speed and direction) will be sent to the Key West National Weather Service.

“There is a day-to-day value for mariners, but it will help us long-term as forecasters as well,” said Kasper. The data collected will validate wave models and allow forecasters to make tweaks to marine weather warnings and forecasts. It will allow building data models for monthly and annual wave averages. Maybe January is choppier than May? And collecting data like sea surface temperature and wave height over time will help look at climate change as well. 

“According to the Department of Defense, 40 percent of maritime commerce comes through the Straits of Florida,” said Kasper. “This information will be extremely valuable in keeping all boaters safe and informed.” And out of choppy waters.

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