Cape Cod Buoy

Comprehensive data of ocean users helped find the best site for a new wave-monitoring buoy to aid safety at sea.

The Challenge:

Real-time data depicting weather conditions was needed to help keep mariners safe coming into and out of Cape Cod Bay. No data on wave conditions existed in the heavily trafficked waters. Without this information the safety of ship pilots, tug and barge operators and recreational boaters was at stake. Using the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, NOAA’s National Ocean Service and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) partnered with other agencies to tackle the problem.


The Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) is responsible for buoy operation and maintenance, and the strategic placement of the wave sensor was the challenge. While the buoy required a location near primary shipping routes to provide accurate, viable data for ships, potential issues like heightened collision risks limited where the high-tech buoy could be placed. That’s when scientists like NERACOOS’ Tom Shyka used the portal to visualize where commercial ship traffic and recreational boating activity occurred in Cape Cod Bay.


The Process:

In order to make a decision for the high-tech buoy location that fulfilled all the precautionary checkpoints and maximized the supply of data for users, partners utilized the portal’s interactive maps with a ‘draw’ feature to suggest potential locations for buoy placement. Through data and coordination with the ocean users who needed this new real-time data, NERACOOS determined a safe and optimal data-collection location for the buoy just north of Sandy Neck.

The Results:

Thanks to coordination and tools from the Northeast Ocean Data Portal, this buoy now produces continuous measurements and transmits data on conditions at sea, including weather, wave measurements, and water temperature, to NERACOOS. Using this information, ship captains can accurately assess the safety of Cape Cod Bay’s seas. Wave and temperature data are available for commercial fishermen, recreational boaters, and whale-watching tour operators. And real-time data is available for the National Weather Service to enhance its forecasting abilities, the U.S Coast Guard’s search and rescue operations, and the U.S. Geological Survey as it plans beach restoration projects.

Learn more:

Read the full case study here

Read about supporters in the ports, maritime, and shipping industry here

Read about supporters in the recreational boating industry here


Photography by NASA HQ (background)