Scientists of the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) have successfully installed a wave rider buoy at the sea off Valiathura. The buoy is an early warning and information system of the state of the sea.

The buoy and related equipment were loaded onto a hired fishing boat at the Vizhinjam wharf and transported to the location about two km off the Valiathura pier. Packed with electronic sensors, the buoy will generate real time information on waves, tide, ocean currents, and sea surface temperature.

The data will be used for weather forecasting and early warning of cyclones, tidal waves, storm surges, and tsunamis. It will also provide information on potential fishing zones.

Scientists said the monitoring station on the CESS campus had received signals confirming the successful installation of the buoy on Wednesday. The data would be continuously monitored for three weeks from Thursday morning. It would be subjected to quality check after validating with the real field situation. Scientists said a display board would be installed at the Vizhinjam fishing harbour to inform fishermen about the condition of the sea.

They said apart from the wind direction, wave height, wave length, and near-shore characteristics, all of which are crucial for fishermen venturing out to sea, the electronic display board would show the potential fishing zones. Any abnormal measurement in the wave characteristics would be issued as a warning, they said.

The team that installed the buoy included T.M. Balakrishnan Nair, Head, Information Services and Ocean Sciences Group; Arun, scientist from INCOIS; Shahul Hameed, Reji Sreenivas, and L. Sheela Nair, scientists at CESS; and Praveen Nair and Arjun S. Menon, senior research fellows. The team was accompanied by a diver who checked the mooring of the buoy on the seabed.

“Due to the wind conditions and rough sea, the boat kept drifting and we had to spend almost 20 minutes correcting the course,” Dr. Praveen Nair said. The site where the buoy was established was marked as GPS coordinates for easy location and a red flag attached to the buoy to caution fishermen.

“On Wednesday, we distributed notices among the coastal communities from Vizhinjam to Kovalam to sensitise them about the presence of the buoy and the significance of the early warning system. The display board is expected to become functional by the first week of June,'' Mr. Nair said.

A second buoy will be installed off the coast of Kozhikode by the end of the year.

The measurement of wave parameters is done using an accelerometer, which is the heart of the buoy. The data generated is transmitted through high frequency waves, satellite (INSAT), and mobile phone.

The data is used by INCOIS to generate numerical (computer) models to predict the future of the sea state. The models are run in the super computer installed at INCOIS for accurate prediction of storm surges, swell waves, and other abnormal conditions. The forecast is then disseminated through digital display boards, SMS, email, TV, and FM radio. High wave alerts are issued during the formation of a cyclone or the onset of south-west monsoon.

INCOIS is collaborating with NGOs, universities, and departments of the State government for dissemination of the forecast to end users such as fishermen, and to collect their feed back. The system is already in operation in Puducherry, Ratnagiri, and Karwar.

The data can be used by fishermen, ports, harbours, and maritime boards for safe navigation of vessels; oil companies can use it for exploration and safe operations at sea; and the Coast Guard and Navy can use it for search and rescue operations, management of oil spills, and strategic planning.