HF radar current data overlaid with oil coverage in the Deepwater Horizon spill area in the northern Gulf of Mexico, courtesy Rutgers University Coastal Ocean Observation Lab.
Nearly 50% of the nation’s population lives within 50 miles of the coastline, heightening the need for accurate, reliable, and detailed measurements of coastal environmental variables. Just as the winds in the atmosphere influence where and when weather systems occur, ocean currents determine the movement of oceanic events. Presently, ocean current measurements are not as readily available as winds, in large part due to the expense and difficulty of measuring ocean currents at many locations.
Ocean currents determine the movement of surface waters, so the ability to collect data on their direction and speed provides critical information to support pollutant tracking, search and rescue, harmful algal bloom monitoring, navigation, and ecosystem assessment. Many oceanographic monitoring systems are insufficient to provide the level of detail required by scientists and forecasters to measure surface current speed and direction. In order for coastal managers, emergency responders, and marine scientists to perform most effectively, they require access to near-realtime surface current measurements that cover a large area continuously over time.
High Frequency Radar (HFR) is a technology for measuring ocean surface current velocities over 100’s of square miles simultaneously. These radar systems measure the speed and direction of the ocean surface currents in near real time. HFR is recognized nationally as a cost-effective solution to augment the existing system of in situ measurements and to provide increased spatial and temporal resolution.
This plan presents the uses of high frequency radar, the requirements that drive the measurement of ocean surface currents, and the implementation design for a five-year, national build out effort.