Spread around Puget Sound, including Hood Canal, are bright yellow buoys that stand about 8 feet tall from sea level. They are actually about double that height when you include the underwater component.
Our local such buoy, 46121, sits in Carr Inlet about midway between Maple Hollow on the Key Peninsula and Green Point near Horsehead Bay on the Gig Harbor Peninsula. Our buoy is one of six placed by NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Aeronautics Administration, to feed data via satellite to its computers that work diligently to track the health of Puget Sound, among other important things.
Measurements, which are collected and transmitted at least every four hours, include tide height, average wave height, water temperature, air temperature, surface wind speed, salinity, oxygen concentration, humidity, current-flow speed and other data needed to help predict winds, weathers, tides and currents to help keep mariners (commercial, military and recreational) safer from the perils of the sea than they otherwise might be.
The buoys are owned and managed for NOAA by the University of Washington.They are part of what is called The ORCA Project.
Here’s how NOAA describes it: “The Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer (ORCA) is an autonomous, moored profiling system providing real-time data streams of water and atmospheric conditions. It consists of a profiling underwater sensor package with a variety of chemical and optical sensors, and a surface-mounted weather station, solar power system, winch and custom computer and software package equipped with WiFi/cellular communication.
“Since its deployment in 2000, the ORCA system has provided a near-continual stream of high-resolution water quality data from locations in Puget Sound, Washington state. There are currently six mooring systems deployed, spread throughout Puget Sound and Hood Canal.”
Bill Trandum is a retired U.S. Navy captain, a guest columnist and a self-described student of all things winds, waves, weathers, tides and waters.