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Now Online: High Frequency Radar Data Enhances Navigation

View near real-time surface currents for San Francisco Bay and lower Chesapeake Bay.

HF radar in San Francisco Bay

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A new high frequency radar product provides near real-time surface current observations and tidal current predictions online. The product is now operational in San Francisco Bay and the lower Chesapeake Bay. Upper right: a view of San Francisco Bay with a high frequency radar in the foreground.

Commercial shippers and recreational boaters alike will want to check out NOAA's new web page on High Frequency (HF) Radar Surface Currents, which provides surface current observations and tidal current predictions for coastal areas in near real time. The result of a partnership between NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) and the NOAA-led U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), the new web product offers broad spatial coverage of surface currents in areas that are vital to both commercial and recreational navigation.

Now operational in Chesapeake and San Francisco Bays, the web tool offers interactive maps and time series plots of surface currents, and complements NOAA's Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS®), which provides water-level, current, and meteorological observations important for safe navigation at many high-traffic coastal locations nationwide.

The web product will also benefit search-and-rescue operations, oil spill response, harmful algal bloom monitoring, water quality and ecosystem assessments, and fisheries management.

Devices used to measure currents traditionally have been placed directly in the water to observe the current speed and direction at a single location. HF radar sensors, placed near the water's edge, have the advantage of being able to measure surface currents over large coastal areas.

"By partnering with IOOS to create new tools like HF radar surface currents, we are providing a more complete picture of a very dynamic environment," says CO-OPS Director Richard Edwing. "This is a great example of how coastal intelligence better enables informed decisions to be made for safe navigation and other uses. We will continue to work with our partners in the navigation community to enhance and expand this product and eventually integrate it into NOAA's PORTS products."

IOOS Director Zdenka Willis concurs, adding, "This product puts information derived from environmental data directly into the hands of the people who need it. By translating the data into a suite of real-time navigation products and services, we are showing how NOAA's investment in key observational platforms provides the vital services our maritime communities rely upon to operate both safely and efficiently."