Southern Ocean wave buoy data 8 Feb 2017 to 28 Jul 2017

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Click on the following terms for explanations of significant wave height, maximum wave height and peak wave period.

Location

The Southern Ocean wave buoy is part of a collaborative project between the New Zealand Defence Force and MetOcean Solutions. Located at 52 45.71 S,  169 02.54 E the buoy was the southernmost open ocean moored wave buoy in the world, and was deployed on February 8, 2017.

 
The wave buoy (red dot) was located 11 km south of Campbell Island.

The wave buoy (red dot) was located 11 km south of Campbell Island.

 

Persistent westerly winds and unlimited fetch combine to make Southern Ocean waves among the biggest in the world. Sub-Antarctic waters are difficult to work in, and reliable wave data for the area is scarce. The New Zealand Defence Force and MetOcean Solutions joined forces to deploy an open ocean moored buoy further south than has ever been previously attempted in order to get valuable observations from this remote part of the ocean. Moored in a water depth of 150 m, the buoy was located within the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone, 11 km south of Campbell Island. 

The instrument is a TRIAXYS™ directional wave buoy manufactured by Axys Technologies. At any single point in the ocean, waves of many different lengths and sizes come from different directions, the sum total of which is known as a wave spectrum. The TRIAXYS™ sensor unit consists of three accelerometers, three rate gyros and a fluxgate compass, which in combination measure components of the wave field to construct the directional wave spectra. From this spectra, wave characteristics such as the significant wave height, the peak period (wavelength) and the mean direction can be calculated. The buoy is run on a mixture of batteries and solar power and at deployment was anticipated to last six months. 

Southern Ocean important for climate

The Southern Ocean is known to play an important role in the climate system, cycling heat, carbon, and nutrients. Waves modify the air-sea fluxes and the mixed water masses are then redistributed by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current creating a complex interacting system. Persistent mid-latitude storms and the lack of landmasses create large fetches and strong winds, ideal conditions for generating large waves. The waves generated in this region have far-reaching effects, contributing significantly to the wave climate in all the major ocean basins. 

Data will help ocean science

The Southern Ocean is known to play an important role in the climate system, cycling heat, carbon, and nutrients. Waves modulate the air-sea fluxes and exchanged properties are redistributed primarily via the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Persistent mid-latitude storms and the lack of landmasses create large fetches and strong winds, ideal conditions for generating large waves. The waves generated in this region have far-reaching effects, contributing significantly to the wave climate in all the major ocean basins. 

Despite the importance of this region there are almost no in situ observations in the Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean wave buoy data will help us understand waves in the region, and in recognition of this value, the data will be made freely available to the scientific community.