W1-M3A station

Location of W1-M3A station
Location of W1-M3A station

Cool facts or discoveries

Cool story 1

Meteorological and sea temperature data from the W1-M3A observing system were used to study the anomalous warming of summer 2003 at sea. The event was related to the record heat wave that swept much of Europe from June to September of that year.

The development of an anomaly in the sea temperature began at the end of May and persisted throughout August, rising to a seasonal maximum 2–3°C higher than in previous summers. The anomaly was confined to the sea surface where the temperature was even up to 8°C higher than the one recorded at 12 meters deep.

At depth however, the temperature in the underlying waters was several degrees lower than usual, even if subject to a progressive increase coherent with the seasonal trend. The formation of the temperature anomaly and its persistence at the sea surface is attributed to the presence of calm weather conditions from June to August. Such a long period without strong winds has never been observed during the other summer periods which were investigated. The weak wind limited the vertical mixing in the water column and a sharp interface developed between the surface and the layers below.

The limited vertical propagation of heat is ascribed to the high temperature difference that arose between the surface and the deeper layers due to protracted calm weather conditions. The results support the hypothesis that weak winds are mainly responsible for the development of the temperature anomaly at the sea surface.

Cool story 2

The meteo-oceanographic buoy W1-M3A helps monitor the conditions and the wellbeing of the Ligurian Sea, continually acquiring different kinds of measurements: meteo conditions, chemical and physical parameters and data on wave motions. The data collected and transmitted to the shore from the W1-M3A observing system are used in real-time by national and international meteorological centres. The data are automatically treated and analysed, making them available on the web

The buoy gathers essential measurements for weather forecasts and allows researchers to study and compare the data collected from space satellites and directly at sea. New experimental techniques for gathering of measurements at sea and transmitting them to the lab, make the buoy a great prototype of an autonomous remote unit for the study of the marine environment.

Cool story 3

The W1-M3A buoy is like a miniature island that offers a hard substrate for the development of a rich biological community. Many organisms settle and develop on the buoy, colonising its entire underwater structure. Observing the submerged structure reveals a special kind of ecosystem

Credits : M. Faimali, C. Corrà, and S. Maggio by CNR-ISMAR, Genoa

In fact, underwater objects at sea are very quickly populated by many different organisms. This process is usually indicated with the term F.A.D. (Fish Aggregating Devices) meaning that an object, placed out in the open sea, has the power to attract different kinds of species.

The buoy attracts different species of fish which love to dwell near drifting objects. The organisms which live around or on the buoy can become useful instruments to demonstrate from a biological viewpoint how our seas are altered by changes in the climate. Diving near the buoy is a unique experience, fascinating and scary at the same time.

Credits : M. Faimali, C. Corrà, and S. Maggio by CNR-ISMAR, Genoa

When you gaze down towards the bottom of the structure, the deep blue that engulfs it reminds you immediately that you are out in the open sea, with over 1300 metres dividing you from the seabed below. Most of the submerged structure is in sunlit, euphotic waters where photosynthesis can take place. 30 metres down and the biological community changes considerably near the stabilising disk.

Around the buoy it is possible to observe organisms which are typically found in warmer waters but that, because of a phenomenon known as “tropicalisation” of the waters, have found the necessary conditions to live here. An example is the trigger-fish, which typically lives in the southern areas of the Mediterranean Sea, but which has appeared abundantly in the last years in the Ligurian Sea.

Scientists or technicians in charge of the observatory

8
Roberto Bozzano
9
Sara Pensieri

Name of their institution

National Research Council (CNR), Institute of Intelligent Systems for Automation (ISSIA) CNR-ISSIA, Genoa, Italy.

Distance from shore

38 nautical miles from the coasts of Liguria (4 hours of sailing from Genoa)

Max depth

1300 m