Observatory Will Offer Scientists Expanded Weather Data
By KRISTEN L. MITCHELL
A near-shore observatory that is being planned
for the south coast of Martha's Vineyard promises to give Woods Hole scientists
a new perspective on the same ocean they study each day.
The Katama Observatory, a project of the Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institution, is scheduled to be developed, built, and
installed in the waters off Edgartown over the next two years.
The observatory will be one of only three
such facilities on the eastern US coast that collects data 24 hours a day
on everything from coastal storms and wave measurements to hurricanes and
the impact of winds on the shoreline.
The two other facilities are the US Army Corps
of Engineers Field Research Facility at Duck, North Carolina, and the Long-term
Ecosystem Observatory at Tuckerton, New Jersey.
"The three facilities provide a unique network
on the East Coast of the US from which we can gain valuable measurements
on processes that are not well understood,'' said Robert Gagosian, director
of WHOI. ``For example, hurricanes in the summer and fall and coastal storms
common to the Northeast during the winter season can now be tracked as
they develop and move up the East Coast and then out to sea.''
The Katama Observatory will be a $1.2 million
project. The cost will be shared by the National Science Foundation and
WHOI, with the institution providing 30 percent of the total cost.
The project is being headed by scientists
Drs. James B. Edson and Wade R. McGillis of the Oceanographic's Applied
Ocean Physics and Engineering Department. Other investigators working on
the project are Christopher von Alt, the principal engineer, and scientists
Cheryl Ann Butman and John Trowbridge.
The observatory will consist of a small shore
station, located above the highest high tide mark at the Katama Air Park
in Edgartown; a 20-foot tall meteorological mast with atmospheric sensors,
which will be installed near the Katama Lifeguard House; and two nodes
for oceanic senors, located on the ocean floor in about 35 to 50 feet of
The shore station, meteorological mast, and
oceanic nodes will be connected with an underground cable, which will run
underneath the Katama Air Park runway, Herring Creek, Atlantic Drive, South
Beach, and the dunes.
Data collected from the nodes will include
measurements on waves and their direction onshore, the speed and direction
of the current, the seawater temperature and salinity, and carbon dioxide
concentrations. It also will collect information that will help researchers
in their studies of coastal meteorology, air-sea interaction, sediment
transport, gas transfer, and benthic biological processes.
All of this data will be transmitted from
the nodes through the cable to a computer located in the shore station.
After it is logged into the computer, the information will be available
to scientists and engineers at WHOI, students and teachers, and the general
public on the Internet.
"Local officials will be able to use information
from the observatory to develop coastal management policies, while wind
surfers and sailors may be interested in the wind and wave data for recreation
reasons,'' said Dr. Edson.
"Students on the island, and elsewhere, will
be able to participate in a real-time experiment and observe what is happening
literally in their own backyard.''