Surface Current Monitoring for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Southeastern Coasts Using High-Frequency Radar (HFR): What We Have and What We NeedAug 3, 2014 • 3:02 pm
U.S. Gulf and Southeast Ocean Economy and Scientific Linkages
The U.S. Gulf and Southeastern coasts are linked physically and ecologically by the contiguous Loop Current, Florida Current, and Gulf Stream, as well as economically (shipping, energy, fisheries, tourism) (Figure 1. and 2.). These coasts are vulnerable to a variety of risks, including oil/contaminant spills, harmful algal blooms (HABs), hurricanes, and navigation accidents. Near real-time information on coastal ocean surface currents, waves and winds are an important element of a coastal ocean observing system necessary for protecting public health and safety, emergency response, coastal economy and sustainable use of coastal resources. This environmental intelligence can, for example:
- Help ensure safe recreational and commercial navigation,
- Enhance search and rescue efforts by reducing the search area up to 66%,
- Help track spilled contaminants and Harmful Algal Blooms to protect public health, water quality, and critical habitats,
- Improve ocean and weather forecast models, including those for storm surge,
- Enhance public beach safety through the forecasting rip currents,
- Improve monitoring of restoration projects (sediment transport, water quality), and
- Enhance community preparedness for coastal land loss issues.
|Key facts about HFR System|
Current Status and Critical Gaps of HFR Surface Current Monitoring along the Gulf of Mexico, Southeast
To measure and provide 24/7 near real-time information on surface currents for the Gulf of Mexico, Southeastern and other U.S. coasts, several academic institutions and private industry operate HFR stations (Figure 3).
The existing HFR stations are strategically located and are providing valuable coastal current information, but significant spatial gaps remain in the relatively sparse HFR coverage for the Gulf and Southeast coasts (Figure 3.). Texas and Louisiana currently have no HFR coverage. Response to the March 2014 spill at Galveston Bay, TX would have greatly benefited from near real-time surface current information. The spill shut the world-leading Port of Houston for four days (costing $300M/day to waterway commerce per The Houston Chronicle, March 24, 2013), closed the Bay’s multi-billion dollar fishing industry, and threatened migrating and resident fish and birds in the ecologically sensitive area. Mississippi and Alabama also have minimal coverage, despite significant ports at Pascagoula and Mobile. Florida does not have any coverage in the “Big Bend” area of its coast, its ports, the environmentally sensitive and economically valuable Keys, nor extensive areas of the heavily populated Florida East coast. Critical gaps also exist along the GA, SC, and NC coasts.
These gaps remain despite the fact that the Gulf has the highest density of our nation’s energy activities with the Gulf and Southeast coasts vulnerable to oil spills, as currents can move oil throughout the Gulf, around the Southern tip of Florida, and into the Gulf Stream up the Atlantic coast (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012). The gaps also remain despite the fact that the Gulf and Southeast have 13 of the top 20 U.S. ports by tonnage (American Association of Port Authorities, 2013), and huge costs associated with extreme events such as HABs and hurricanes. For example, HABS cost up to $10 million per event or tens of millions of USD per year in Florida (Evans and Jones, 2001; Steidinger et al., 1999) and the Gulf and Southeast experienced all 10 of the most damaging hurricanes in U.S. history (Insurance Information Institute, 2013).
Recognizing the gaps and needs, the GCOOS-RA and SECOORA together developed a coordinated plan for an HFR network for the Gulf and Southeast Regions. This plan includes the existing HFR stations and proposes new stations added over phases to provide additional coverage in critical coastal areas and major ports along with cost estimates (Figure 4. and Tables 1. 2. and 3.). Funding to support this HFR network is critically needed.
This phased coordinated regional plan is also a component of the National Surface Current Monitoring Plan, coordinated by the U.S. IOOS.
Table 1. Estimated Capitalization and Operations/Maintenance Costs for per HF Radar Station from GCOOS-RA and SECOORA
|Capitalization costs (HF unit purchase, power back up purchase, site preparation)||$250,000 (capitalization, initial year)|
|Operational costs||$ 15,000 (ongoing O&M after initial year)|
|Data management, quality assurance, communications, project management||$ 30,000 (ongoing O&M after initial year)|
|Total per Site||$250,000 capitalization initial year, $45,000 operational costs per year|
Table 2. Proposed and Existing HF Radar Stations with Capitalization and Operations/Maintenance Cost Estimates by State (not phased)
|Coastal State||Existing Stations (for Annual Operations and Maintenance, O&M)||Proposed New Stations (Capitalization, C)||Estimated Total Costs (using estimates from Table 1.)|
$ 45,000 (O&M)
$ 45,000 (O&M)
$ 450,000 (O&M)
|GA||2||0||$ 0 (C)
$ 90,000 (O&M)
|SC||2||3||$ 885,000 (C)
$ 90,000 (O&M)
|Gulf of Mexico||1||0||$ 45,000 (O&M)|
|Total Number of Stations||20||67|
|Total Capitalization Cost to Add All Proposed Stations||$19,765,000 (C)|
|Annual Total Cost for O&M to Support Existing Stations||$ 900,000 (O&M)|
Table 3. Proposed HF Radar Stations with Capitalization Cost Estimates for Major Ports by State (not phased)
|Coastal State||Major Ports||Proposed Stations (P) – 2 sites per port||Estimated Capitalization Costs(using estimates from Table 1.)|
|TX||5 ports (Houston, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Texas City, Port Arthur)||10||$2,950,000|
|LA||5 ports (South Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Plaquemines, Port Fourchon)||10||$2,950,000|
|MS||1 (Pascagoula)||2||$ 590,000|
|AL||1 (Mobile)||2||$ 590,000|
|FL||5 Ports (Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, Everglades, Miami, Tampa)||10||$2,950,000|
|GA||1 (Savannah)||2||$ 590,000|
|SC||1 (Charleston)||2||$ 590,000|
|NC||1 (Wilmington)||2||$ 590,000|
|Total Number of Stations||38|
|Annual Total Cost to Add All Proposed HFR Stations at Ports||$11,800,000|
Stephanie Watson (GCOOS) and Vembu Subramanian (SECOORA). Thanks also to the following for their contributions and reviews (in alphabetical order): Landry Bernard, Steve Buschang, Renee Collini, Jaqueline Dixon, Brian Dzwonkowski,Jack Harlan, Debra Hernandez, Stephan Howden, Barb Kirkpatrick, Chunyan Li, Mark Luther, Cliff Merz, Nick Shay, Chris Simoniello, and Robert Weisberg.
The primary source of funding for current maintenance of the active HF radar stations in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast is the U.S. IOOS, with additional support from other sources, such as the National Science Foundation and state agencies. The GCOOS-RA/IOOS provides annual funding for the operations and maintenance of the USM stations in the Northern Gulf and some support to USF for data access and data products. SECOORA/IOOS provides support for the USF stations along the West Florida Shelf (USF), Florida Straits (UM), Georgia (SKIO/UGA), South Carolina (USC) and North Carolina (UNC-CH). Universities and state agencies have also contributed some funds to systems deployed in the Gulf and Southeast regions.
American Association of Port Authorities. 2013.
Evans, G., and L. Jones. 2001. Economic Impact of the 2000 Red Tide on Galveston County, Texas A Case Study. Final Report. TPWD No. 666226. Texas Parks and Wildlife.
GCOOS HF Radar Gap Analysis – http://gcoos.tamu.edu/RAdocs/GCOOS_HFR_GapAnalysis2008V1_1.pdf
Houston Chronicle. March 23, 2014. Spill brings concerns of potential economic impact. http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/science-environment/article/Spill-brings-concerns-of-potential-economic-impact-5343006.php#/0
Insurance Information Institute. 2013. http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/hurricanes
National Ocean Economics Program, Center for the Blue Economy at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. 2014. State of the U.S. Ocean and Coastal Economics: Coastal Ocean Economics Summaries of the Coastal States 2014.
Shay, L.K., Seim, H., Savidge,D., Voulgaris, G., Weisberg, R.H., Maul, G., Welsh, P., Driscoll,R. and K. Speer. High Frequency Radar Observing Systems: SECOORA Gap Analysis. Document prepared for SECOORA and NOAA IOOS, http://secoora.org/sites/default/files/webfm/members/documents/SECOORAHFRadar.pdf
Steidinger, K.A., Landsberg, J.H., Tomas, C.R., and J.W. Burns. 1999. Harmful algal blooms in Florida. Unpublished technical report submitted to the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force, Florida Marine Research Institute, 63pp.
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2012: http://www.eia.gov/special/gulf_of_mexico/
Weisberg, R.H. 2011. Coastal ocean pollution, water quality, and ecology. Marine Technology Society Journal, 45(2), 35-42.
Weisberg, R.H., Boicort, W., Jochens, A.E., and J.I. Virmani. 2012. A vision for coastal ocean IOOS for the next decade. IOOS Summit. Herndon, VA.