High Frequency Radar Observing Systems in SEACOOS: 2002-2007 Lessons Learned

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Publication Date

Fall 2008

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From 2002-2007, the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing System (SEACOOS) deployed high frequency (HF) radars to overlook several venues stretching from the West Florida Shelf to the North Carolina Shelf. Based on extensive deliberations within SEACOOS, we decided to assess the two differing types of coastal ocean current radars within the southeast that were on the commercial market. The long-range SeaSondes (SS) were deployed to sense surface currents at hourly intervals and a 6 km resolution along the West Florida Shelf and the North Carolina Shelf. The medium and long-range Wellen Radars (WERA) were deployed along the Florida Straits and along the South Atlantic Bight with spatial resolutions of 1.2 to 3 km sampling at time scales of minutes. A common theme in these deployments was to sense the Loop Current, Florida Current and the Gulf Stream, which transport heat poleward as part of the gyre circulation. Several lessons were learned as part of these deployments, such as the need to protect against lightening strikes and the challenge of providing robust communication links between the remote sites and a central hub to make the data available in near real-time. Since states in the southeast and surrounding the Gulf of Mexico are prone to the passage of hurricanes, surface current and wave measurements during hurricanes are invaluable for improving storm surge and inundation models that are now being coupled to surface waves. In addition, significant wave heights (and directional surface wave spectra) are critical in the model assessment. Data quality and accuracy of the surface current and wave fields remain a central issue to search and rescue and safe maritime operations and to understanding the limitations of these radar systems. As more phased array systems (i.e., WERAs) are deployed for surface current and wave measurements, more attention needs to be placed on the interoperability between the two types of systems to insure the highest quality data possible is available to meet applied and operational goals. To insure the highest quality data possible, a full-time technician and a half-time IT specialist are needed for each installation as well as access to spares to keep these systems running consistently and to make quality observations available in near real-time.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Marine Technology Society Journal, v. 42, issue 3, p. 55-67