Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 13 Issue 02

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Volume 13, No. 2
Pages 24 - 31


Portable Coastal Observatories

By Daniel Frye, Bradford Butman, Mark Johnson , Keith von der Heyd, and Steven Lerner  
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Ocean observational science is in the midst of a paradigm shift from an expeditionary science centered on short research cruises and deployments of internally recording instruments to a sustained observational science where the ocean is monitored on a regular basis, much the way the atmosphere is monitored. While satellite remote sensing is one key way of meeting the challenge of real-time monitoring of large ocean regions, new technologies are required for in situ observations to measure conditions below the ocean surface and to measure ocean characteristics not observable from space. One method of making sustained observations in the coastal ocean is to install a fiber optic cable from shore to the area of interest. This approach has the advantage of providing power to offshore instruments and essentially unlimited bandwidth for data. The LEO-15 observatory offshore of New Jersey (yon Alt et al., 1997) and the planned Katama observatory offshore of Martha’s Vineyard (Edson et al., 2000) use this approach. These sites, along with other cabled sites, will play an important role in coastal ocean science in the next decade. Cabled observatories, however, have two drawbacks that limit the number of sites that are likely to be installed. First, the cable and the cable installation are expensive and the shore station needed at the cable terminus is often in an environmentally sensitive area where competing interests must be resolved. Second, cabled sites are inherently limited geographically to sites within reach of the cable, so it is difficult to cover large areas of the coastal ocean.


Frye, D., B. Butman, M. Johnson, K. von der Heydt, and S. Lerner. 2000. Portable coastal observatories. Oceanography 13(2):24–31, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2000.30.

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