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Optimizing and Validating High-Frequency Radar Surface Current Measurements in the Mona Passage

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The Mona Passage is a major shipping lane to the Panama Canal and a key route for illegal traffic into the United States. We have emplaced two high-frequency radar (HFR) stations on the west coast of Puerto Rico intended to allow mapping of the ocean surface velocity field of the eastern Mona Passage and to explore its performance in vessel detection and tracking. The array provides coverage of the southeastern quadrant of the Passage extending west to Mona Island and north to Rincon. Hourly results are posted online in near-real time. To optimize our results, we twice measured the antenna beam patterns and applied these corrections to the resulting radial returns. To assess the basic capability of the Mona Passage HFR array to measure surface currents in this tropical environment, we undertook validation measurements, including repeated deployment of Lagrangian drifters, deployment of an acoustic Doppler current profiler, and comparison with modeled tidal currents. Our experimental measurements showed good agreement to both modeled and in situ data lending confidence to the area-wide surface current maps generated by this system. Repeated measurements showed limited temporal variability of antenna distortion patterns, demonstrating that these are in large part the product of the surrounding environment. Comparison between a numerical particle tracking algorithm and experimental Lagrangian trajectories showed mixed results, with better agreement during periods of low intrahour variability in current direction than during periods of rapid tidal reversal.

Keywords: Lagrangian; acoustic Doppler; drifters; high-frequency radar; validation

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2011-05-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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