The IMOS ocean radar facility already has five established sites across Australia – two each in Western Australia and South Australia and one in Queensland.
The Director of the IMOS ocean radar facility, which is based at James Cook University’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Professor Lucy Wyatt, said that the High Frequency (HF) radar systems made it possible to map real-time dynamics of sea-surface currents across substantial areas of inshore waters.
“The equipment provides information similar to that available through Bureau of Meteorology for the weather and will be used to monitor marine spills, sewage outfall release, shipping and boating activity and marine rescue operations,” she said.
Dr Moninya Roughan, from the University of NSW’s School of Mathematics and Statistics and the Sydney Institute of Marine Science leads the NSW Science Node of IMOS and is part of the team of scientists who will be using the infrastructure to conduct research.
“We have chosen the Coffs Harbour region as it is a significant marine ecosystem recognised by the zoning of both a state and federal marine park,” Dr Roughan said. “Oceanographically, it is also important as it is typically upstream of the region where the warm East Australian Current separates from the coast.
“The radar will give us near real-time maps of the surface currents, which will let us investigate the circulation, the interaction of the East Australian Current with the coastal region, flow topography interactions around the islands in the Solitary Islands Marine Park and also wave dynamics and processes.
“We have been working towards this since 2008 and we believe that the local community will find the surface current information really useful,” Dr Roughan said.
Professor Wyatt said that coastal currents communicate a wealth of information about properties such as heat and nutrient transport. In addition, they provide a mechanism for larval dispersal, pollution transport, and sediment redistribution.
“Until recently, spatial data was very difficult to find, as direct measurements are usually at a single point from moorings,” she said. “With 85% of Australians living within 50km of the coast, sea level rise and coastal erosion are risks that affect the majority of the population.
“The new technology being used in the creation of the network provides maps of ocean currents and in some locations waves and winds within 200km of the coast,” Professor Wyatt said.
This deployment complements the array of sub surface oceanographic moorings off Coffs Harbour that measure currents and temperatures below the ocean surface. In addition there is an array of sub-sea acoustic receivers which track the movement of tagged animals such as fish and sharks.