Ocean Observing Systems

What is an Ocean Observing System? Where are they? What do they measure and why? Who uses them? Why are they important to us?

Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (2006)

Coastal Observatories are a collection of instruments that provide long-term, continuous data, often in real time or near real time. New technologies facilitate novel experiments and capture the latest data from the ocean. Instrumentation is placed on the ocean floor, autonomously “flown” through the ocean, or suspended on buoys to capture data from the ocean. The information is collected, sent via telemetry to a data manager that relays it out over the Internet where scientists, resource managers, educators, students and the recreating public can view and use it.

Major components of observatories include:

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles or Gliders – autonomous underwater robot like instrument that converts changes in vehicle buoyancy to vertical motion. A pair of fixed wings provides forward momentum to move horizontally through the ocean. A suite of miniaturized physical and bio-optical instruments, remotely measure water properties including temperature, salinity, and the absorption and scattering of light in the water column.
Buoys – a moored floating marker that is outfitted with instruments that collect oceanographic and/or meteorological data that is relayed back in real time or near real time to a central data management office.
Remote Sensing Satellites – These satellites orbit the earth at an altitude of 500 miles and are designed to “see” the earth’s surface temperature, taking pictures of the earth that represent temperatures as colors. The images taken of the ocean are sent back down to earth as Sea Surface Temperature maps, or SST maps for short.
CODAR – oceanographers determine surface currents and wave heights and frequency using information gathered by a radar system called Coastal Ocean Dynamics Application Radar, sometimes called Coastal RADAR, or CODAR for short. Computers interpret the data and then re-present them as real-time maps of the ocean using arrows to indicate currents.
Meteorological Instruments/Station – because the atmosphere and ocean are intimately linked, it is important to collect basic weather data as part of the observatory array.

By designating special areas of the coastal ocean for thorough study, research, and analysis by all fields of marine science, the scientists can increase oceanographic knowledge. With so many resources and instruments together, scientists are able to observe the ocean from more angles than ever before. And so, our understanding of the ocean and our planet is enhanced

Skip to toolbar