People who want information about conditions — from weather to the chances of encountering stinging sea nettles — before heading out on the Bay should check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "smart buoy" system.

The Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System provides real-time weather and water quality information — as well as a dose of history — and has been upgraded with new features for this summer.

In addition to temperature and other local weather, the 10 buoys in the system now provide a heat index that tells how hot it feels by factoring together the actual temperature with the relative humidity.

They are also providing up-to-date information about the potential of encountering a stinging sea nettle during a trip on the Bay. The buoys use data they observe—water temperature and salinity—to estimate the likelihood that sea nettles are present nearby.

In addition, as the nation marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, CBIBS has partnered with the National Park Service to provide information about events that took place near eight of the buoy sites during the conflict.

In another change, the buoy near the mouth of the Susquehanna River has been upgraded to provide nitrate concentrations in the water.

The CBIBS system was launched in 2007 to provide information to boaters, scientists and the general public, as well as to help mark the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Each buoy also provides historical information about Smith's 1607-08 explorations of the Bay.

Information from the buoys can be accessed online at www.buoybay.noaa.gov, toll-free at 877-BUOY-BAY, or though smartphone apps, which may be downloaded from the website.