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Map of the week – High frequency radar

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Map of the week – High frequency radar

Monitoring the state of the sea is key for a wide range of human endeavours from search and rescue operations, to weather forecasting, environmental assessments and renewable energy production. For this reason, scientists and engineers are constantly inventing and designing new technologies to observe, measure and study the ever changing ocean at different spatial and temporal scales. Earth Observation satellites allow low resolution observations at planetary scale while high resolution in-situ observations only sample the immediate surroundings. High frequency radar (HFR) is a relatively recent addition to the oceanographer’s repertoire of observation platforms. HFR is able to cost-effectively map ocean surface currents and waves in coastal regions at both a high resolution and over relatively large areas.

HFR systems consist of several fixed antennas installed along the coastline. Working in a similar way as ship-borne radars, these fixed antennas transmit and receive radio waves, which scatter off the sea surface in a way that depends on the current velocity and wave height1. From the reflected radio waves, a map of these sea surface properties can be constructed that covers an area of up to 200 km around the antennas1. Some of these maps are openly available in near real time through the EMODnet Physics portal. In order to make optimal use of this unique technology in European coastal waters, the European Global Ocean Observing System (EuroGOOS) has organised a HFR task team to define standards, promote research and development in HFR technology, connect technology providers and implementers and act as a European HFR node to develop outreach activities. The map of the week features the locations of HFR systems along European coasts, as well as the near real time sea surface current velocity maps they produce.

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The data in this map were provided by EMODnet Physics.