The objective of the Coastal Observatory is to study a typical coastal sea's response both to natural forces and to the effects of human activity. The Observatory integrates real-time data measurements with data from models into a "pre-operational coastal prediction system" whose results will be displayed on the web site.
The concept is founded on obtaining data in real time, using telemetry, sending the data from underwater to the sea surface, to land, to the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory to the web site, enabling what is often known as 'armchair oceanography'.
The aim of the Coastal Observatory is to build a time series of data. The Observatory has a particular interest in such areas as storm surges, seasonality, and variations in river discharge, with an emphasis on the River Mersey.
August 2007 marked five years of continuous running of the Coastal Observatory in Liverpool Bay, taking measurements such as:
- In situ time series of current, temperature and salinity profiles and of waves and weather. A second site, and measurements of turbidity and chlorophyll are now also operational.
- The CEFAS SmartBuoy for surface properties including nutrients and chlorophyll.
- Instrumented ferries for near surface temperature, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll and later, nutrient data. The first route was Liverpool to Douglas (Isle of Man), with the ferry travelling between Birkenhead (Liverpool) and Dublin (Ireland)
- Drifters, measuring surface currents and properties such as temperature and salinity.
- Tide gauges, with sensors for meteorological, waves, temperature and salinity data, where appropriate.
- Meteorological data from HF radar and tide gauge sites.
- Shore-base HF radar measuring waves and surface currents out to a range of 50 km.
- Satellite data - infra-red (for sea surface temperature) and visible (for chlorophyll and suspended sediment) spectra.
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