In 2019, the Peruvian Navy’s Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation (DHN, in Spanish) will set up four oceanographic buoys along the northern coast of Peru. The buoys will strengthen authorities’ response capabilities to natural disasters such as El Niño Costero, which severely impacted the country in 2017.
“The buoys will help authorities monitor strategic areas and gather real-time information for [follow-up] and prevention of an event such as El Niño,” Peruvian Navy Commander Alfieri Buccicardi, head of DHN’s Oceanography Department, told Diálogo. “[We seek to] alert the population and reduce the death toll and material damage to socioeconomic activities that are important at the national level.”
The Peruvian government authorized the Ministry of Defense to use $2.69 million from the Fund for Natural Disaster Interventions (FONDES, in Spanish) to purchase four buoys, El Peruano newspaper reported. FONDES funds public investment projects for the mitigation, response capability, restoration, and reconstruction of Peru in the aftermath of calamitous events, especially occurring suddenly, causing great socio-economic loss.
The buoys will not only provide information about strategic and open sea areas, but also enable the study of physical variables to help forecast rapid changes in the sea that impact maritime coastal areas. Buoys will send data of oceanographic variables via satellite, including seawater temperature, salinity, and oxygen levels from depths of 10 to 500 meters. Buoys will also include sensors to measure waves and tides, and a system to maintain a permanent position that DHN will monitor via GPS.
“Buoys will be purchased in the international market. The Peruvian Navy is in the process of selecting [the manufacturer] to buy the equipment,” Cmdr. Buccicardi said. “We hope to install them by early 2019. Two [will be placed] on the northern coast of Peru, at a depth of about 4,500 meters, and two will be for replacement and maintenance.”
The polar research vessel BAP Carrasco of the Peruvian Navy, equipped to plant the devices in specific geographical locations, will install buoys with the support of a dynamic positioning system. The mission will last one week.
A great tool
Part of the Peruvian Navy’s DHN mission is to conduct research related to aquatic environmental sciences to contribute to national development. The Multisectoral Committee for the National Study of El Niño (ENFEN, in Spanish), which studies El Niño and La Niña in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and Peruvian coasts, contributes to the mission. However, an information gap in the region known as Niño 1+2 exists, where authorities lack the tools to predict El Niño and La Niña phenomena.
“Currently, the lack of buoys in the area makes it impossible to provide information about ocean weather conditions in the area of El Niño 1+2, along the northern coast of Peru. For this reason, El Niño Costero went unnoticed in the summer of 2017. Its impact harmed the country’s economy and infrastructure and cost human lives,” Cmdr. Buccicardi said. “So, oceanographic buoys are crucial to warn the population before such disasters happen.”
El Niño Costero 2017 increased temperatures abruptly on the sea surface more than 26 degrees Celsius in several parts of the northern coast. Meanwhile, in the equatorial central Pacific, La Niña’s transition was occurring, causing torrential rain. “Due to the impacts associated with heavy rain and flooding, we can say this event is the third most intense El Niño in the last 100 years for Peru,” indicates ENFEN’s Extraordinary Technical Report.
In 2016, the Peruvian Navy and the Marine Institute of Peru deployed between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, 240 miles off the coast. The U.S. Navy and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration donated the buoys.
“The Navy, through DHN, monitors certain areas in the ocean without having to send an oceanographic vessel,” Cmdr. Buccicardi said. “Although they are great monitoring tools, it doesn’t mean that they improve planning capabilities for management. This type of buoy is an early warning tool against tsunamis.”
In 1999 the World Bank and the Peruvian government funded the NAYLAMP project (named after a Peruvian mythological character from the sea) to monitor and do research in Peru’s southeast tropical Pacific region to forecast El Niño’s arrival. DHN installed, operated, and maintained buoys located between 50 and 400 miles off the Peruvian coast.
“The project isn’t currently active; however, we are trying to resume monitoring tasks in strategic and non-strategic areas to study possible arrivals or changes in the water column. With the [new] buoys, the goals would be met, and a new project would resume, NAYLAMP II”, Cmdr. Buccicardi concluded.