A system of high-frequency radars recently launched by Texas A&M University into the Gulf of Mexico will provide instant oceanic and atmospheric information that will impact thousands of commercial fishermen, oil and gas workers, shipping companies, coastal residents and others who are in or near the Gulf at any moment of the day.
Two radar units were placed in the Gulf and are now operational, and a total of seven will be installed at various coastal sites. Organizers say the radar system will provide life-saving information regarding the movement of severe storms, hurricanes and perhaps could save numerous types of marine life during oil spills.
An estimated 50 million residents of Texas and other Gulf states could be affected by the data collected by the radars regarding weather, climate, resources, ecosystems and economic factors, organizers say.
The long-term goal is to establish an ocean-observing network throughout the entire Gulf of Mexico and to integrate it into a global framework for the entire North Atlantic and low latitudes.
“The Gulf region is among the most important to the interests of the United States and Texas, with many economic, public safety and geopolitical implications,” says Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, whose Chancellor’s Research Initiative provided seed money for the project.
“Texas A&M has the obligation and the responsibility to provide the expertise, leadership and solutions to real-world challenges that affect Texans and other people around the world.”
The radar system will be a cooperative effort involving Texas A&M and its Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), NOAA, NASA, the Ocean Observing Initiative, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System as well as collaborations with Mexico, Brazil and Cuba and eventually partnerships with Europe, China and Israel.
Powering the radars could be unique in itself, says GERG Director Anthony Knap.
“Not all coastal sites in Texas have power, so for some of these sites GERG is building solar systems to power these radars,” Knap explains.
“We hope to have two more operating by the end of August.”
Organizers say the radars will complement the Texas Automated Buoy System (TABS) launched in 1995 that stretches the entire length of the Texas coast and is able to supply key state officials with vital information such as current wave speed and direction, wind speed and direction, wave climate and water temperature and is especially effective for oil spills.
Operated in cooperation with the Texas General Land Office and under the direction of Texas A&M oceanographer Steve DiMarco, the TABS buoy system is the only one of its kind in the Gulf and is designed to protect coastal areas. The data it collects can literally be a lifesaver for the hosts of marine organisms that live in this region.
“These new radars are a great addition to our observing system funded through the Texas General Land Office,” adds Knap.
“They will provide real-time information on ocean conditions and storms, oil spills and other conditions that can have direct impact on millions of residents of Texas and along the Gulf coast.”