Research Project: Processes Driving Exchange at Cape Hatteras

The R/V Neil Armstrong.

Project Overview

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the “Processes driving Exchange at Cape Hatteras” project also known as PEACH, is a collaborative research project focused on identifying the processes that control the exchange of waters between the shelves along the eastern seaboard of the US (Middle Atlantic Bight and Southern Atlantic Bight) and the open ocean.  Project partners include Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, North Carolina State University, UNC Chapel Hill, University of Rhode Island, and the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI).  The project will endeavor to understand the dominant forcing mechanisms of exchange across the shelf through the deployment of a variety of oceanographic observing platforms in combination with numerical simulations.   The oceanographic instrumentation will be deployed in the waters off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina during a two-week (April 15- April 29) research cruise aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong, a 250 foot ocean class research vessel operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Oceanographic Observing Platforms

During the cruise, the science team will utilize several different types of fixed, mobile and remote ocean observing systems including the following:

The science team and crew of the R/V Neil Armstrong prepare for a CTD cast in 2700 meters of water off the shelf of North Carolina.

  • Spray and Slocum glider transects with conductivity temperature and depth (CTD) sensor and a mini acoustic doppler current profiler (ADCP).
  • Two buoy moorings with a full meteorological package and submerged CTD and ADCP
  • Seven current pressure sensor equipped inverted echo sounders (CPIES)
  • Nine ADCP moorings ranging from 30m to 200m
  • Argo Float deployments
  • High-horizontal resolution CTD casts across features of interests determined via real-time satellite information (i.e. eddies, shelf break front)
  • Regular deployments of expendable bathy-thermographs (XBTs) while underway
  • Shipboard ADCP transects across the shelf and the 200m isobath

The PEACH project hypotheses were informed by previous observations made in the area, including long term current observations made by the NC Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP) at CSI. NCROEP has been making current observations in the Gulf Stream since 2013 using bottom and vessel mounted ADCPs, and land based coastal ocean radars to quantify the Gulf Stream Marine Hydrokinetic Energy resource. PEACH will enhance these observations by adding 3 more ADCPs along the same isobath as the NCROEP mooring, four new higher frequency coastal ocean radars in Cape Hatteras, and several other types of observations that measure the Gulf Stream and its variability.

PEACH sampling sites

Understanding shelf exchange with the deep ocean is important because of the role it plays in global carbon budgets, marine ecosystem dynamics, larval and pollutant transport and the effects it may have on storm tracks and intensity.  The knowledge gained from this project will be applicable to other regions with similar shelf and basin-scale currents converge.  The observations made on the project, coupled with numerical models, will increase our ability to anticipate how our coastal systems will respond to forcing mechanisms in the future.

You can following the track of the R/V Armstrong here:

Live data from the R/V Armstrong can be viewed here:

Stay tuned for regular blog updates from the field!

The Processes driving Exchange At Cape Hatteras (PEACH) project is funded through the National Science Foundation division of Ocean Sciences.

PEACH Research Blog
  • Scientists Study Current Interactions at Cape Hatteras

    By Meghan Savona The waters off North Carolina’s Outer Banks are an extremely dynamic area. With colliding currents of varying origin, temperature, and salinity, the coast of Cape Hatteras is a hotspot for studying the way that different currents interact. “North Carolina is kind of like the Mason-Dixon line of physical oceanography,” researcher Mike Muglia …Read More

  • Continental Shelf – Deep Ocean Exchange: The Hatteras Story

    By Glen Gawarkiewicz Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution One of the main science goals for PEACH is to understand how waters from the shallow continental shelf intermingle with the waters of the deep ocean.  The Cape Hatteras region is particularly complicated because there is southward flow that comes down from New Jersey and Maryland and northward flow that …Read More

  • PEACH Project Numerical Modeling: Filling in the Gaps

    In addition to data collection from ocean observing instrumentation, numerical modeling is an important tool used by project oceanographers to better understand shelf water exchange into the deep ocean.  Throughout the PEACH research cruise, NCSU Ocean Observing and Modeling group’s (OOMG) Joe Zambon has been providing data to PIs and Chief Scientist Magdalena Andres for cruise planning. Several study sites were pre-determined …Read More

  • An Undergraduate’s Perspective on the PEACH Research Cruise

    By Lauren Ball – Senior, NC State University As an senior at NC State University in Biological Oceanography, I only required one class to graduate in May.  At the beginning of the semester, Dr. Joe Zambon and Dr. Ruoying He brought up an opportunity in our class for undergraduates to participate in two research cruises.  …Read More

  • CTD: The Workhorse of Oceanography

    For an oceanographer, understanding the physical properties of sea water, including salinity and temperature, and depth are parameters that are critical for studying ocean processes.  Luckily, oceanographers have an oceanographic instrument that does that very thing, and it’s called a CTD.  A CTD is an acronym for sensor that measures conductivity (which can be used to …Read More

  • R/V Neil Armstrong: An Oceanographic Research Vessel

    The R/V Neil Armstrong is the newest vessel in the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution’s (WHOI) fleet of ocean going research ships.   In 2010 Office of Naval Research chose WHOI to operate of of two new research vessels planned for construction and in September of 2015, the R/V Neil Armstrong was transferred to WHOI operations.  …Read More

  • Argo Floats: Drifting Ocean Observers

    The PEACH science team is deploying four Argo floats during the two week research cruise on the R/V Neil Armstrong.  The Argo floats are part of a world wide network of vertical profiling floats providing upper ocean observations.  Deployments of the first Argo floats began in 2000 with an additional 800 floats added on average …Read More

  • Tracking Shelf Water with Buoys

    Two meteorological buoys complete with oceanographic instrumentation were deployed off the R/V Neil Armstrong on April 19 and 20.  This observing effort is being led by Dr. Harvey Seim and Sara Haines of UNC Chapel Hill. The buoys have a complete meteorological package, including sensors for humidity, temperature, rainfall, barometric pressure, temperature, GPS, wind speed …Read More

  • Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers: Measuring Currents with Sound

    While mobile oceanographic observing instruments like the Spray glider are good for making measurements over larger areas for extended time periods, scientists on the PEACH project are also deploying observing equipment to make ocean current measurements at fixed locations with high resolution.  Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers, or ADCPs for short, are one example of fixed …Read More

  • Coastal Ocean Radar: Land Based Oceanographic Observing Systems

    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 …Read More

  • Would you like PIES with that?

    Over the course of the research cruise, the science team, led by Magdalena Andres of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, will deploy several pressure sensor equipped inverted echo sounders (PIESs).  The small, easily deployed oceanographic instruments sit on the seabed and use a pressure sensor and an acoustic echo sounder to measure the overlying sea surface height …Read More

  • Gliders: Mobile Oceanographic Observing Platforms

    On April 16, the science team on the PEACH project deployed an autonomous underwater glider called a Spray glider in the waters off Ocean City, Maryland. The glider will “fly” a transect south along the continental shelf to offshore of Cape Hatteras and back north again, all the while collecting valuable data on ocean temperature, …Read More