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Radar spots speeding ocean currents.

You're cruising down the freeway at 70 miles per hour when a patrol car emerges from a hiding spot and sets off in pursuit with lights flashing. The radar gun has sruck again.

The same basic principal that enables police to monitor motorists may soon enable scientists to monitor ocean currents off U.S. coasts. This fall, researchers plan to test a new radar system, called Ocean Surface Current Radar (OSCR), at Cape Hatteras, N.C., and Miami. The instrument relies on Doppler radar, which can determine the speed of an object. Normal radar gauges only distance.

Scientists have used OSCR extensively in Europe, but the upcoming tests represent the first demonstration of the device in the United States, says Duncan Ross of the University of Miami. At present, U.S. researchers studying currents must use buoys or satellites, but neither of these methods can provide detailed maps of water movement over a wide area--a task for which OSCR was designed, he says.

Ross, an investigator in the U.S. project, believes OSCR can help scientists understand beach erosion, the health of fisheries and the movement of pollution through the water. Better knowledge of currents could help explain, among other things, how syringes get washed up on beaches along the Atlantic Coast, he says.

The radar system uses two transmitters stationed several kilometers apart on a beach. Positioned perpendicular to each other, the transmitters send out radio signals over a patch of water and receive the signals reflected back by ocean waves. The system then produces a map of currents in the region. While OSCR has a range of 40 kilometers, similar systems could have a much greater range, says Ross.
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Title Annotation:plan to use radar to monitor currents
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 14, 1991
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