Coastal Ocean Observing Benefits to North Carolina

Accessing Coastal and Ocean Data

If you are a commercial shipping vessel, a recreational fisherman, a kayaker, or a beachcomber, you need information on tides, winds, and other ocean conditions.  The map to the right is an example of how users can  access coastal and ocean observations along the North Carolina coast.  Oceanographic data are displayed from seven real-time moorings managed and operated through partnerships between University North Carolina - Wilmington and University South Carolina.  Each station provides information such as the latest observed values including air temperature, wind speed, sea temperature, and water level.

Providing Easy Access to Weather and Wave Forecasts via the Marine Weather Portal

The National Weather Service’s (NWS) Marine Weather Portal began in North Carolina and has been expanded to cover the coastal region from North Carolina to Texas. This web portal provides marine observations, forecasts, and warnings for coastal and offshore waters. Since coastal ocean observing system audiences already rely on the NWS Weather Forecast Offices for marine observations and forecast needs, this partnership provides an efficient way to disseminate coastal and ocean observing information to the public.

Alternative Energy

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill completed a study that confirms that, because of a promising wind resource, large areas offshore of the North Carolina coastline are potentially well-suited for wind energy development and worthy of further investigation. This 9-month study was requested by the North Carolina General Assembly to assess the feasibility of installing wind turbines in the sounds and off the coast of North Carolina.  Observing systems including offshore buoys were critical in providing wind data for this study.  View the full report, brochures, and maps.

Mapping the Direction of the Currents

SECOORA  is a critical player in the development of a national system of high frequency radars (HF radar).  This technology has been  nationally recognized as a solution to provide the level of detail required by scientists and forecasters to measure surface current speed and direction.  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supports two HF Radar units on the Outer Banks of NC. Applications of HF Radar that require access to densely distributed, near-real-time, current measurements in the SECOORA region are search and rescue operations; tracking and predicting oil spills and harmful algal blooms; assessing shoreline erosion; predicting rip currents; and providing maritime forecasts of currents and waves to recreational and commercial marine communities.

Modeling North Carolina's Environment for Better Forecasting

Data is incorporated into computer models developed to simulate the coastal ocean environment. Models can be used to help forecast ocean transport pathways, such as those responsible for the circulation of coastal pollutants, small marine organisms, and nutrients. Models also aid in assessing climate change and variability and their potential effects on coastal communities.  SECOORA supports various modeling efforts of North Carolina researchers. 

  • Regional Circulation Modeling
    The regional modeling effort build upon an existing circulation nowcast / forecast  modeling system  covering the entire South Atlantic Bight and Gulf of Mexico areas. The model is driven by realistic meteorological forcing, tides, rivers, and deep ocean boundary conditions.
  • Forecasting of Storm Surge, Inundation, and Coastal Circulation
    This modeling component provides real-time forecasting to support operational management of water control structures and utility infrastructure, and to support emergency management during hurricane season.  
  • Modeling Waves Improves Swimmer and Mariner Safety
    Since the nearshore coastal ocean (0-5 miles) is the most heavily used part of the vast ocean, accurate wave forecasting can greatly increase safety in this area for boaters, fishers, and recreational users. The UNC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently set up the SWAN (Simulating Waves Nearshore) wave model at three east coast NWS Weather Forecast Offices, providing direct access to model results through their forecasting tools. Improving NWS wave forecasts will undoubtedly lead to better safety and planning.

Educating Tomorrows Ocean Leaders

Fostering ocean literacy is a primary goal of SECOORA's education and outreach efforts, with a focus specifically on observing technologies and tools.  One example is the Basic Observation Buoy (BOB) project.  BOB is a student-built floating platform with capacity to carry a suite of environmental sensors. Three interactive workshops have introduced this concept of a scaled-down, functional platform for collecting information on water conditions and chemistry to university scientists and informal and formal educators. BOB can be moored to the bottom or to a dock in quiet waters. Sensors on the buoy typically include salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and temperature.  The BOB concept has been incorporated into undergraduate and graduate courses at UNC-Wilmington (UNC-W).  Technicians at UNC-W are also being funded to provide a mapping portal for students.

North Carolina Members

Member Organization/Representative
Duke University Marine LaboratoryPat Halpin
East Carolina UniversityJ.P. Walsh
North Carolina State UniversityRuoying He
Leidos CorporationPeter Hamilton
University of North Carolina-Chapel HillHarvey Seim
University of North Carolina-WilmingtonLynn Leonard


North Carolina Resources

MARACOOS is the IOOS partner who shares a portion of the NC coast with SECOORA.

Carolinas RCOOS is a sub-regional component of SECOORA.

View NOAA's Coastal County Snapshots to:

  • Assess a county’s exposure and resilience to flooding
  • Analyze a county’s dependence on the ocean or Great Lakes for a healthy economy
  • Compare counties to each other or for regional analysis
  • Download a PDF report for the snapshot of your choice

More About How Coastal and Ocean Observing Supports North Carolina

The data from this buoy off the coast of North Carolina is used to verify model output, and is analyzed for Coastal Waters Forecasts, rip current predictions, and other marine weather applications (coastal flooding, high surf, hurricanes, coastal storms, search and rescue, etc.).


Users can explore and query buoy and other data through the SECOORA Interactive Map


Two high school students deploy a BOB, a Basic Observation Buoy designed to teach students from kindergarten through graduate school about observing technologies. This image is from the second BOB Workshop held at UNC-W. Image Credit:  SECOORA.