The network has grown over the last decade from a few radars to what is
now considered the largest network of its kind in the world consisting
of 78 sites in operation as of May 1.
An integrated analysis led by Sung Yong Kim, a postdoctoral researcher
at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
, reports several
scientific aspects of coastal surface circulation derived from the West
Coast high-frequency radar network, operated by a team of
The researchers performed a multi-year synthesis of surface current
observations, provided through a centralized data center designed and
operated by Scripps in support of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing
System, led by NOAA. Scientists have known for years that ocean currents
at the ocean's surface are governed by a complex combination of factors
including coastal tides, winds, Earth's rotation, synoptic ocean
signals, and interactions of these forces, but the relative
contributions of these drivers are very location specific and difficult
to predict. With an ability to retrieve data on kilometer-scale currents
out to approximately 150 kilometers (90 miles) offshore and 2,500
kilometers (1,500 miles) of shoreline, the researchers report on how the
network allows the determination of geographic differences of these
dynamics and illustrate how the system is able to characterize phenomena
such as the seasonal transition of alongshore surface circulation,
eddies less than 70 kilometers (43 miles) in diameter and coastal
"This radar network provides the detailed coastal surface circulation
and ocean dynamics at a resolution - kilometers in space and hourly in
time - never before resolved," said Kim.
More remarkable, said report authors, is that the "network of networks"
expanded through the oceanographic community through disparate funding
from multiple agencies. The state of California and NOAA lead funding
for the network, but National Science Foundation, Bureau of Ocean Energy
Management, Regulation and Enforcement and Office of Naval Research
have all contributed to the researchers efforts in the past decade.
"We applaud the leadership of the West Coast oceanographic community in
establishing this network which serves national interests in monitoring
U.S. coastal waters," said Dave Kennedy, assistant administrator for
NOAA's National Ocean Service. "The scientists have demonstrated that
first-class science will result from maintaining long term observations,
while the real-time data capability will contribute to keeping our
coastlines safe. It is a great example of a state/ federal partnership
for establishing the country's capacity in monitoring our ocean."
Scientists contributing to the report include Burt Jones from USC; Libe
Washburn from UC Santa Barbara; Mark Moline from Cal Poly, San Luis
Obispo; Jeffrey Paduan from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey,
Calif.; Newell Garfield from San Francisco State University; John
Largier from UC Davis-Bodega Marine Laboratory; Greg Crawford from
Humboldt State University (now at Vancouver Island University in
Canada); Michael Kosro from Oregon State University, and Scripps
oceanographers Eric Terrill and Bruce Cornuelle.
"This work illustrates the collaborative nature of the West Coast
oceanographic community in establishing a scientific facility that is
now beginning to pay dividends in increasing our knowledge about how our
coastline interacts with the ocean," said Terrill, director of the
Coastal Observing Research and Development Center at Scripps, who led
the installation of radars in Southern California and whose group
manages the data from all the radars. "In addition to the science
gleaned from the network, the real-time data is increasingly being
relied upon for marine operations including oil spill response, search
and rescue, and maritime transportation. As the network persists, it is
bound to become a key component in long-term monitoring of our coastal
waters to understand how climate changes influence biological systems."
The researchers envision the network will continue to provide valuable
real-time monitoring of the West Coast as well as provide long-term,
high-quality records of ocean climate signals.