Realtime and open data means New Zealanders can now see storms live in action in the Southern Ocean thanks to MetOcean and the New Zealand Defence Force.
In 2017, MetOcean Solutions partnered with New Zealand Defence Force and Defence Technology Agency to deploy a scientific wave buoy in the Southern Ocean. Moored 11 km south of the remote Campbell Island, the buoy collected 170 days of great data – including the May 2017 storm with a whopping 19.4 m wave!
By July however, the perpetually rough seas caused fatigue in the mooring line and the buoy started on a new and rather intrepid journey toward Chile.
â€œIt is still sending us valuable data while drifting,â€ says oceanographer Dr Tom Durrant. â€œWe are now seeing high quality wave measurements coming in from some of the remotest locations on Earth; it is extremely valuable data for our research.â€
Meanwhile, the mission to collect wave data for NZ Navyâ€™s SubAntarctic applications continues, and this yearâ€™s initiative has seen another wave buoy positioned at Campbell Island. This is New Zealandâ€™s southernmost estate and an ideal spot to sample the complex directional wave spectra from the Southern Ocean. On 2 March 2018, MetOcean Solutions manager and senior oceanographer Dr Peter McComb led the buoy deployment from the Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS WELLINGTON, with support from Sally Garrett and William Coldicutt from the Defence Technology Agency.
â€œThe crew of HMNZS WELLINGTON undertook the task with utmost professionalism and detailed planning to ensure a safe and successful execution,â€ says Peter. â€œIn 2.5 m seas and light winds, the new wave buoy and its mooring were carefully placed at the same site as last year.â€
This year however, the mooring design has been modified to better suit the harsh conditions and reduce the risk of mooring failure before the servicing mission next summer.
â€œWe have to find the right balance for robustness in the mooring system while maintaining scientific integrity of the data. It is certainly a challenge working in these southern latitudes,â€ admits Peter. â€œBut every month of data adds significantly to our knowledge of this ocean basin, so itâ€™s a very worthy challengeâ€.
A significant storm on Monday and Tuesday in the Southern Ocean may be fascinating to watch in real time thanks to the new buoy.
MetOcean supports open data meaning ALL data from the wave buoy programme is openly available for research, and interested members of the public can check the Southern Ocean wave conditions in real-time at: www.metocean.co.nz/southern-ocean.