A new data set of the direction and speed of ocean surface currents in Hilo Bay is now available online. The hourly data updates are accessible to the public and free of charge on “Voyager,” the interactive mapping platform of the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

Mapping ocean surface currents in near real-time provides valuable data for search and rescue operations by narrowing down the possible location of a missing person or vessel. The new data set also helps to forecast the distribution of oil or hazardous material spills and is therefore crucial to plan an adequate response. Marine navigation can benefit from near real-time surface currents for safe navigation. Other examples of surface currents data usage include water quality monitoring and forecast modeling.

“We are excited about the new ocean surface current data for Hilo. It complements the PacIOOS wave buoy and water quality buoy off Hilo Harbor,” said Jason Adolf, associate professor and chair of the marine science department at UH Hilo. “Providing data on ocean and water conditions, including waves and surface currents, in near real-time improves decision-making for ocean users, managers and responders. With the new data set we can also develop educational activities for the marine science curriculum at UH Hilo and raise public awareness in partnership with Mokupāpapa Discovery Center.”

Maps of surface currents, generated by remote sensors on land, are available across the U.S. as part of a larger network supported by the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System.

A Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System news release