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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS)?
How many buoys are part of CBIBS? Will there be more?
Where are the buoys located?
How do the buoys work, and what information do they collect?
How often is data collected?
What do the buoys look like?
How do I access the buoy data?
How are the buoys being used for educational purposes?
What educational tools are being developed as part of CBIBS?
How is CBIBS connected to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail?
How can I help support the buoy system?
What is the short-range plan for CBIBS?
What is the long-range plan for CBIBS?
What is the relationship between CBIBS and the Chesapeake Bay Observing System (CBOS)?
Why is the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System needed?

What is the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS)?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) is a network of observing platforms (buoys) that collect meteorological, oceanographic, and water-quality data and relay that information using wireless technology to a variety of users. The latest environmental data from key points throughout the Bay watershed is available at this website or via free mobile apps that are available in the Android Marketplace and via iTunes.

The CBIBS "smart" buoys:

  • deliver real-time data on weather, water conditions, and water quality;
  • support high-quality science education and enhance the delivery of experiential outdoor education; and
  • interpret points along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and enhance the experience of trail users

CBIBS provides users, including scientists, boaters, and students, with information they need. Scientists use data to further protect, restore, and manage the Chesapeake Bay. Students can learn about the Bay and their environment by exploring the data. Boaters can plan a safer day by knowing the conditions on the Bay before they leave shore.

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Where are the buoys located?
The number of buoys deployed as part of CBIBS varies depending on our operations and maintenance schedule. Buoys are also often pulled over the winter to keep them safe from potential ice damage. For 2021, we anticipate deploying six or seven buoys. Buoy locations have included:

  • at the mouth of the Susquehanna River (near Havre de Grace, Maryland)
  • at the mouth of the Patapsco River (near Baltimore)
  • at the mouth of the Severn River (Annapolis, Maryland)
  • in the upper Potomac River (just south of Washington, D.C., near Alexandria, Virginia, and Oxon Hill, Maryland)
  • at Dominion Gooses Reef, in the mainstem of the Bay (off Calvert County, Maryland)
  • at the mouth of the Potomac River (near Point Lookout, Maryland)
  • at the mouth of the Rappahannock River (near Stingray Point/Deltaville, Virginia)
  • at the mouth of the York River (near Perrin, Virginia)
  • in the James River (near Jamestown, Virginia)
  • at the mouth of the Bay (near First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, Virginia)

Historical data from these locations is available, even if a buoy is not currently deployed there.

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How many buoys are part of CBIBS? Will there be more?
The number of buoys varies from year to year. Buoys in fresher water and at more northern locations are often pulled over the winter. Buoys are stationed to provide good overview of conditions in the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay and some key locations up tributaries. Any additional CBIBS buoys depend on future funding.

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How do the buoys work, and what information do they collect?
Each buoy includes a set of sensors and monitoring equipment that collects information on a variety of parameters. The buoys transmit this information to the shore via wireless technology. On shore, a data management system houses and archives the data, and translates the information through websites and telephone services that provide data to users.

Meteorology

  • air and water temperature
  • wind direction, speed, and gust
  • barometric pressure
  • relative humidity

Currents

  • current direction and velocity

Waves

  • significant wave height and period
  • maximum wave height
  • mean wave direction
  • wave direction spread

Water Quality

  • chlorophyll-a
  • dissolved oxygen
  • water conductivity
  • water salinity
  • turbidity

Some buoys also included acoustic telemetry receivers that compile data used by researchers seeking to learn more about fish movements. 

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How often is data collected?
Data is collected every 10 to 60 minutes depending on the parameter.

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What do the buoys look like?
The yellow buoys look similar to other buoys located throughout the Bay. They are deployed in relatively shallow water (five to 50 meters) and are maintained by buoy technicians working from small boats.

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How do I access the buoy data?
Buoy data can be accessed via this website or by using apps available for Android and iPhone smartphones.

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How are the buoys being used for educational purposes?
NOAA wants to increase the use of data in K-12 classrooms. CBIBS data is a great way for teachers and students to use data to learn about their Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. In addition, NOAA conducts educator trainings and supports hands-on, outdoor projects that encourage the use of CBIBS and other data in the classroom.

  • Chesapeake Exploration. Launch high school curriculum using real-time and archived data from NOAA CBIBS and other data sources to teach about the physical characteristics and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay. The curriculum provides intentional connection to partner curriculums, including the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Estuaries.gov curriculum and National Geographic FieldScope curriculum.
  • Bay Watershed Education and Training Program (B-WET). Provide incentives for grantees to use CBIBS and related technologies in their projects.
  • Training sessions for education professionals. Offer targeted training on classroom opportunities related to CBIBS through the Environmental Science Training Center, which is managed by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office.

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What educational tools are being developed as part of CBIBS?
CBIBS provides both real-time data and related curricula to educators for use in the classroom and in the field. NOAA's "Chesapeake Exploration" includes professional development and training on how to use data with students. Additional curricula, developed with CBIBS partners, will highlight historical, cultural, and local stories related to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

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How is CBIBS connected to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail?
CBIBS buoys are located at points along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. NOAA assists the National Park Service in interpreting the trail by providing recorded messages about historical, cultural, and local stories related to the Trail on this website and via mobile apps. 

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How can I help support the buoy system?
Individuals and organizations can help by providing "eyes on the buoys" and contacting NOAA if any damage to the buoy is observed or problems with the data or the operation of the phone number or website are encountered. Report problems via email.

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What is the short-range plan for CBIBS?
NOAA has a "backbone" of buoys located in or near the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay. This core system provides a consistent monitoring of the tidal portion of the Chesapeake, producing a long-term record of water-quality data.  

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What is the long-range plan for CBIBS?
NOAA will consider further additions to CBIBS to enhance monitoring of tidal tributaries, including potential use of smaller, less-expensive buoys in areas less exposed to high winds and waves. NOAA will investigate the development of prototype buoys for these locations, which could collect the same parameters as the larger buoys from a more compact platform. This would include a basic set of sensors on each buoy to observe wind, weather, and surface water quality and properties.

Over time, experience with operating and maintaining the core CBIBS array will identify additional needs to ensure that the system remains reliable and produces accurate and timely information. NOAA will maintain a focus on providing accurate and reliable information and work to achieve the industry standard of better than 90% data availability per year.

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What is the relationship between CBIBS and the Chesapeake Bay Observing System (CBOS)?
CBIBS is an integral part of CBOS and also is a component of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System.

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Why is the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System needed?
CBIBS provides critical observations to the Chesapeake Bay Observing System, a subregional component of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). IOOS is a coordinated network of people and technology that works together to generate and disseminate continuous data on coastal waters, Great Lakes, and oceans. IOOS is a high priority for NOAA; CBIBS assists the agency in meeting local observational needs that contribute to the national system. In particular, CBIBS serves the needs of:

  • regional Chesapeake Bay resource managers (for water quality and water temperature)
  • NOAA Weather Forecast Offices (with wind and waves data)
  • educators (who use data in the classroom, new high school science curriculum)
  • Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historical Trail visitors and other recreational users (seeking historical/cultural information; water temperature and waves for kayakers and sailors)
  • marine transportation and marine safety personnel (with water temperature, winds, and waves to support ferry operators, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and others)

The Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order, signed by President Barack Obama on May 12, 2009, directs NOAA to engage in monitoring that provides scientific support for decisionmakers in the Bay watershed. NOAA's "smart buoys" are a key element for this effort because they fill critical observational gaps, including real-time observations in the main stem of the Bay that were largely absent prior to the development of the system. As the Executive Order appropriately describes, "you cannot recognize, understand, improve or maintain what you do not or cannot measure."

In addition to these drivers, NOAA's mission and mandates further outline a role and need for conducting science and collecting environmental information that leads to improved products and services for the nation. CBIBS is an innovative observing network that offers new ways to interpret and use information on the Chesapeake Bay.

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