In Pursuit of Nearshore Wave Characteristics- Implementation and Validation of a Shallow Water Correction for High Frequency Radars along the New Jersey Coast

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Elizabeth A Livermont, Stevens Institute of Technology, Center for Maritime Systems, Union City, NJ, United States
Within the U.S., coastal ocean current mapping with HF radar has matured to the point where it is now considered an essential component of regional ocean observing systems. A Mid-Atlantic HF radar network now provides high-resolution coverage within five localized networks, which are linked together to cover the full range of the Mid-Atlantic coast. While the primary focus of these networks has been on offshore current mapping observations, a long-term objective has been to develop and evaluate nearshore waves and currents. Of particular interest is the height of ocean waves that play a crucial role in engineering projects, ship navigation and design, vessel traffic control as well as shoreline protection, beach erosion, and mitigation of oil spills and ocean pollution.

The radars owned by Rutgers University cover the coastline of New Jersey at multiple frequencies from 4.5 to 25 MHz. Their echoes contain information on both currents and waves from deep water up into the shallow coastal zone, providing an excellent archive for this study. Radar sea-echo spectra consist of dominant first-order peaks surrounded with lower-energy second-order structures. Present analysis methods assume that the waves do not interact with the ocean floor. The assumption of deep water is often invalid close to the coast and for broad continental shelves, and is particularly inadequate to describe the second-order sea-echo used to give information on ocean waves. Additionally, second-order echo is often only visible above the noise floor at close ranges.

In this paper, a shallow water spectral theory is implemented at four locations on the New Jersey coast- Strathmere, Wildwood, Brant Beach, and Sea Bright. The corrected wave characteristics extracted from the HF radars were then compared to several in situ wave measurements. The first three sites—Strathmere, Wildwood and Brant Beach—were validated against two long-term (1999-2007) wave gauges deployed by Stevens Institute of Technology in 5 meters of water. Based on this initial comparison, several additional corrections to the radar processing were implemented. The site at Sea Bright was used for independent verification and validated against an ADCP deployed for three weeks in March 2012.