Shore based systems
Although much of our observational work is carried out ‘at sea’ we also have a number of land-based systems in operation. These systems have a number of advantages over sea-based systems. They are (usually) more accessible for maintenance and data recovery, they can (usually) be connected to a mains power supply so are not reliant on batteries and they are attached to a stable platform – important where the measured parameters need to be referenced to a fixed datum.
A particularly important shore-based system is the UK Tide Gauge Network. This was established after the violent storms of 1953 which resulted in serious flooding of the east coast of England and the coastline of the Netherlands and caused 307 deaths in the UK and over 1,800 in the Netherlands. The UK Tide Gauge Inspectorate, a team within the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) Ocean Technology and Engineering Group, operates and maintains the network of 44 gauges on behalf of the Environment Agency. Data from the network is used operationally for the Storm Tide Forecasting Service provided by the Met Office but is also used for scientific studies of coastal regions.
We also operate a number of sea-level gauges in the South Atlantic Ocean and Antarctica at Ascension Island, St Helena, Port Stanley (Falkland Islands), South Georgia, and Rothera and Vernadsky (formerly Faraday) bases. They provide observations for studies of sea level and large-scale ocean circulation. Data from these sites are sent back to the NOC in near-real time.
Other land-based observation systems include the HF radar at Abergele in North Wales and Formby in Merseyside, and the X-band (marine) radar at Hilbre Island in the Dee Estuary, both part of the Irish Sea Observatory. The HF radar is used to observe sea-surface currents and waves in Liverpool Bay. The X-band radar can record images of waves at higher resolution than the HF radar. Software developed by Dr Paul Bell of the NOC allows maps of water depth to be calculated based on the wave behaviour. These maps can be used to monitor changes in the bathymetry caused by, for example, the movement of sand banks.