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U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System

Caribbean Regional Association

High Frequency Radar Data, National Data Buoy Center

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Caribbean Surface Current Data Now Available to Rescuers, Hazmat Crews

Knowing the speed and direction of currents is critical in determining the probable path of people lost at sea or the direction that contaminants spilled into water may take. A new NOAA data feed makes this information available for the western Puerto Rican coast on a single Web site, helping to streamline search and rescue efforts and hazardous material cleanups in the Caribbean.

HF radar

High frequency radar systems, such as the one shown here, are used to create a maps of ocean surface currents.

The surface current data are collected with high frequency radar systems, which bounce signals off the water to create a map of the surface currents. The maps improve accuracy of predictions of how victims lost at sea, contaminants such as spilled oil, or other objects will travel in the water. Scientists can also make conclusions about water quality, assess our ecosystems, and even make fisheries management decisions based on these surface current maps.

The new feed is operated by the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Caribbean Region, and presents the data in a consistent format for users such as the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, and other federal and state agencies. Existing IOOS efforts to make data available in standard formats eased efforts to get these data into the national server and fill an important geographical gap.

IOOS is a coordinated network of federal, regional, and private-sector people and technology that work together to compile and distribute data on our coastal waters, Great Lakes, and oceans. IOOS data, such as water temperature, water level, and wind speed, are collected by many different tools including satellites, buoys, tide gauges, radar stations, and underwater vehicles. While many of these data collection tools already exist, a benefit of IOOS is a single common system to connect all of these data so that the people who need information can find it quickly to track, predict, manage, and adapt to changes in our marine environment.

IOOS data supports environmental efforts such as tracking harmful algal blooms and emergency response needs by assisting with search and rescue operations. IOOS delivers the data and information needed to increase the understanding of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes so decision makers can improve safety, enhance our economy, and protect our environment.

These new data for the Caribbean are available through a partnership effort among NOAA, the Mid-Atlantic and Caribbean regions of the U.S. IOOS, Clarkson University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the National Data Buoy Center.