Data collected from high-frequency (HF) radar can be used to infer the speed and direction of ocean surface currents (to 1 meter’s depth). This data is processed and displayed to the user as surface currents maps in near real-time. This information can be useful in determining the fate and transport of oil from an oil spill, freshwater outflow from a broken sewage line or river source, and can inform swimmers, surfers and boaters of hazardous conditions in the surfzone and coastal areas.

Meteorological stations along the coast provide wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, solar radiation, rainfall and water temperature data. These basic measurements provide important information for predicting coastal circulation, upwelling and changes to the weather and climate.


Automated shore stations consist of a suite of sensors that are attached to piers at several locations along the California coast. These automated sensors measure temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, turbidity and water level at frequent intervals in the nearshore coastal ocean. This data can provide local and regional information on mixing and upwelling, land run-off, and algal blooms.

Temperature and salinity measurements are collected by hand at manual shore station sites using thermometers to measure temperature and grab samples of water which are analyzed for conductivity, an index for salinity. These measurements are collected at several nearshore locations, and provide some of oldest records of sea surface temperature along the west coast. These measurements offer local and regional insights into coastal circulation and long term changes in the climate.

Mooring are fixed buoys in the ocean that consist of several packages of automated sensors which are spaced throughout the water column. These automated sensors can measure the water temperature, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll, nutrients, speed and direction of currents around the mooring in order to provide a better understanding of the ocean environment. Data may be transferred to shore via frequent electronic transmissions from the surface of the mooring. Mooring data is used in model forecasts, as well as in analysis of long term ocean trends.

Boats and small ships are used to take measurements over large areas, providing snapshots of regional conditions at the time data are collected. Boat based programs conduct regular research cruises to sample physical, chemical and biological properties of the ocean using instruments that are mounted to the ship or are deployed overboard at specific stations. Each cruise provides a large-scale view of the regional ocean, and the ongoing series of cruises are invaluable for analysis of seasonal, interannual or long term changes in the ocean ecosystem.

Gliders are underwater vehicles that are programmed to survey specific areas of the ocean. They are designed to start at the surface of the ocean, drop down to the ocean floor or a predefined depth, and then return to the surface while sampling the ocean properties with automated sensors. These instruments can provide data about the ocean during storm or high swell events when the conditions may not be suitable for boat based sampling. Repeat profiles over the same area also provide insight into the variability of ocean, and the conditions which drive those changes.

SCCOOS data is incorporated into computer models developed to simulate the coastal ocean environment. Models can be used to help forecast ocean transport pathways, such as those responsible for the circulation of coastal pollutants, small marine organisms, and nutrients. Models also aid in assessing climate change and variability and their potential effects on coastal communities. Long term measurements, like those collected at SCCOOS moorings, shore stations, and HF radar sites, are instrumental in providing high quality input to these regional coastal models.