While the R/V Neil Armstrong is an excellent platform for the deployment of oceanographic observing instrumentation, oceanographers on the PEACH project are also using land based observing systems to learn more about the Gulf Stream and the exchange of shelf water into the deep ocean. One important type of land based observation system being used by the project is coastal ocean radar. PEACH project Lead Principal Investigator Dana Savidge of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is leading the effort to install a new system of coastal ocean radar stations on the the Outer Banks. A network of four WERA radars were installed in the Outer Banks this spring: at the Salvo day use area, in Buxton at the old Coast Guard station, in Frisco at Billy Mitchell Airport, and at the Ocracoke Airport. These WERA systems and the PEACH project as a whole, were funded through the National Science Foundation.
WERA radar systems are 13.5 MHz beam forming radars that use the Doppler shift in the radar signal reflected off of ocean waves moving through ocean currents to measure ocean surface currents over a large area with 1 km resolution. Typically, a measurement of ocean surface currents is produced hourly, providing high frequency consistent observations of how the ocean currents are moving. PEACH oceanographers are interested in looking at current fronts, similar to those fronts seen on weather maps, that occur where water masses with different salinity and temperature meet. The Gulf Stream edge forms fronts where it meets inshore waters, and there is a Hatteras Front where water from south of the cape meets water from the north.
A network of 5MHz Codar direction finding radars has been in place on the coast of the Outer Banks since 2013. These lower frequency radars typically provide coverage over a larger area, and further offshore, with less resolution – 6 square kilometers. The radars are operated by the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, UNC Chapel Hill, and the UNC Institute of Marine Science, as part of the Southeast Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association. Having both types of radars operating simultaneously will provide much more information to scientists than was previously available and will complement the data provided by the oceanographic observing systems deployed of the R/V Neil Armstrong.
The Processes driving Exchange At Cape Hatteras (PEACH) project is funded through the National Science Foundation division of Ocean Sciences