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Coastal observatories

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This article describes how fixed automated measurement stations can be used to collect hydrographic and/or meteorological data. There are several of these stations located in German coastal waters. The Coastal Observatory In Liverpool Bay UK, comprises monitoring plus operational models to provide (near) real-time information via internet. The measuring station Fino (located in the Baltic Sea) is used in this article as an example to explain the functioning of coastal observatories.


Figure 1: Fino measuring station

A Coastal Observatory is an extensive monitoring system set up in coastal waters in order to provide comprehensive data on multiple parameters necessary to understand the important physical, chemical and biological processes taking place in the coastal waters. Data is generally measured at a high frequency (several times per day, even several times per hour), often at multiple depth levels. Most coastal observatories provide data in (near) real-time, by using telemetry to transfer measurements back to land. Coastal observatories generally have one or more fixed platforms and/or buoys with a number of instruments and sensors to measure a range of parameters such as temperature and salinity, current profiles, waves and meteorological conditions.

Additional components of a coastal observatory can include:

  • Sensors to measure turbidity, chlorophyll and nutrients;
  • Drifters, measuring surface currents and properties such as temperature and salinity;
  • Tide gauges, with sensors for meteorology, waves, temperature and salinity;
  • Shore-base HF radar measuring waves and surface currents;
  • Satellite data - infra-red (for sea surface temperature) and visible (for chlorophyll and suspended sediment);
  • Instrumented ferries (ferry boxes or ships of opportunity), including data for near surface temperature, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll and/or nutrient values;
  • Meteorological data from local met stations;
  • Research Vessels, to service moorings and to conduct spatial surveys (in-situ data).
  • operational models which can integrate (near) real-time measurements into a (pre-)operational coastal prediction system whose results are displayed on a web site.

Fixed automated measuring stations are operational in many places of the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

German Coastal Observatories

In several areas of the German coastal area, automated hydrographic/meteorological measuring stations are operated by GKSS Research Centre (close to the island Langeoog, Jade Bay near Wilhelmshaven, Hörnum Deep south of Sylt), the University of Oldenburg (close to the island of Spiekeroog) and University of Kiel (close to Büsum). In the German Bight and the Baltic Sea, stations are operated by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH). Graphical time series are usually available on the web.

Most of these stations measure current velocity, wave height, water temperature and salinity (in several water depth levels), and meteorological parameters like air temperature and pressure, wind speed and direction and solar irradiation.

Measuring platform Fino

An example of a coastal observatory is the large measuring platform Fino (see also Figure 1). Fino is located in the Baltic Sea and is operated by BSH. It has a fairly good internet representation of time series dating back to September 2003. Graphs of current, salinity and temperature can be obtained in several depth levels down to 28 m water depth. Figure 2 shows an example of a temperature graph. These temperature measurements provide information on the stratification of the water body. In spring and summer, the warm (and sometimes fresher) surface water is separated from the colder water in the depth by permanent stratification. This breaks down in the North Sea usually in early autumn when decreasing temperatures and storms cause a better mixing of the water body.

Figure 3 shows a graph with information about salinity. Due to high river run-off and precipitation, a half-enclosed sea like the Baltic or the Black Sea are less saline than open oceans. In the Western part of the Baltic Sea, the salinity decreases from the west-side to the east-side. Along with the decrease of salinity, a higher variability of salinity is also recognized. This results from the higher inflow of (relatively) freshwater from the North Sea after severe north-western storms. This freshwater causes the regeneration of oxigen at the often anoxic bottom of the Baltic Sea. The decrease of salinity is also shown in Figure 3. The diagram in this figure shows the monthly average salinity values at five measuring stations in the Western part of the Baltic Sea.

Figure 2: Temperature measured on Fino in 2001
Figure 3: Monthly average salinity values for five stations in the western Baltic Sea


A common problem which all these stations have to face is biofouling. The stations must be maintained on a regular basis, depending on the season, location and the type of used sensors. In the Wadden Sea, e.g., the GKSS measuring stations are cleaned every 4-5 days in summer.

Coastal Observatory at Liverpool Bay

Cobs.gif Pol logo50.gif

The objective of the Coastal Observatory at Liverpool Bay (CoastObs) is to understand a coastal sea's response both to natural forcing and to the consequences of human activity. The Observatory integrates (near) real-time measurements with coupled models into a pre-operational coastal prediction system whose results are displayed on the CoastObs web site.

The concept is founded on obtaining data in (near) real-time, using telemetry, from underwater to the sea surface to land to POL to the web site ('armchair oceanography'). It will grow and evolve as resources and technology allow, all the while building up a long time series. The foci are the impacts of storms, variations in river discharge (especially the Mersey), seasonality, and blooms in Liverpool Bay.

Italian Coastal Observatories

Below follows a selection of coastal observatories maintained and coordinated by CNR-ISMAR, the Institute of Marine Sciences of the National Research Council (

STATION “PALOMA” Northern Adriatic Sea (Gulf of Trieste, Lat 45° 37.097’ N, Long 13° 33.913’ E). PALOMA is being acquiring meteorological data since 2002. Data are transmitted by GSM every 3 hours or on demand. The station is linked to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Regional Meteorological Observatory (OSMER). From 2008 the site is monthly monitored for a vertical CTD profile and dissolved oxygen, nutrients, pH and alkalinity determinations at five depths. This site is linked to National Project VECTOR and ANOCSIA, and included in the LTER program. POC: Dr. Giulio Catalano, CNR-ISMAR Trieste. Mail: []

NETWORK OF METEOROLOGICAL AND SEA-LEVEL STATIONS Northern Adriatic Sea (Gulf of Trieste) - 5 meteorological stations (1 at the CNR-ISMAR-TS building, 1 in the Trieste harbour, 3 in the mainland), - 1 sea-level station (in Trieste harbour) The network is linked to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Regional Agency for Civil Protection and to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Regional Meteorological Observatory (OSMER), and is included in the LTER program. The sea-level station is also linked to the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL, Liverpool). POC: Dr. Fabio Raicich, Dr Renato Colucci Mail:;

OCEANOGRAPHIC TOWER “Acqua Alta” Northern Adriatic Sea (Lat 45° 18,83’ N 012° 30,53’ E), 8 nm off Venice, depth 16 m (see picture below). Operative since 1971, the tower has been progressively improved in the following years. The tower allows specific dedicated campaigns and long term measurements. Energy is supplied at 125, 220, 380 VAC (50 Hz – when people on board), along with continuous voltage 12 and 24 VDC. The tower can host two technicians and three scientists for several days. Recently a broadband wireless communication system between the tower and the Institute has been installed allowing 2 Mb/s data communication rate and real time data availability. The related web coordinates will be soon released. Measurements routinely acquired with automatic instrumentations concern biology, chemistry, oceanography; more specifically a series of meteorological stations (wind, temperature, humidity, rain, solar radiation) and a series of oceanographic instruments (waves, currents along the column, temperature, sea level, turbidity). The wave measurements provide the longest European directional time series (29 years). The worst storm ever experienced was on December 22, 1979, when heavy damage was found up to 9 metres above the mean sea level. The tower has also been used as calibration point for instruments on board of the ERS-1 and SEAWIFS satellites. POC: Dr. Mauro Bastianini, CNR-ISMAR Venice. Mail:

HF RADAR IN THE NORTHERN ADRIATIC SEA CODAR Coastal Radar in the Gulf of Venice, possibly relocated in the north-eastern region of the Adriatic Sea. It enables to measure surface currents in front of the Venice harbour. It has been operative in the period 1996-2001 in the area between Ancona and Senigallia within the project PRISMA II. POC: Dr. Andrea Mazzoldi, CNR-ISMAR Venice. Mail:

STATION “C10-ABATE” Northern Adriatic, roughly 20 nm East of the Venetian littoral (Gulf of Venice). Operative in continuous since 1992 (at that time named “S3”). It acquires at high-frequency meteo, hydrological, hydrodynamical and vertical fluxes data. Chemical and biological data on plankton are also collected at monthly frequency since 1991. The station has been supported and linked to many national/international projects, such as ALPE-ADRIA, PRISMA I-II, INTERREG2, INTERREG3, VECTOR and it is related to LTER activity. POC: Dr. Alfredo Boldrin, CNR-ISMAR Venice. Mail:

NORTHERN ADRIATIC, VENICE LAGOON Network consisting of several stations studied in the frame of various research programs. Hydrological, chemical and biological data (plankton), at 5 stations located in the northern and central basins, are collected at monthly frequency since 1997. Considerable sets of data are available for invertebrate benthic assemblages both of mobile and hard substrata, although collected with irregular timing and methods. Ecotoxicological investigations, biological stress and estimates of organic and inorganic pollutants are available since the ‘80s. Related to LTER activity and to the monitoring activities planned by law following the requirements of the Water Framework Directive (EU/2000/60) and the following Decree 152/06 on the biological “element of quality”. POC: Dr. Davide Tagliapietra, CNR-ISMAR Venice. Mail:

STATION “S1” Northern Adriatic (around Po delta, Lat 44.741042 N - Long. 12.456111), depth 22.5 m. Operative since 2004. ADCP, waves, biogeochemical and meteo parameters. Data are transmitted in real time. The station has been supported and linked to many national/international projects, such as Prisma I-II, Adricosm, ADRICOSM-ext, ANOCSIA-Firb, RER-Arpa Daphne, Emma EU, Sesame- UE, ECOOP-UE, VECTOR. POC: Dr. Mariangela Ravaioli, CNR-ISMAR Bologna. Mail:

STATION “E1” Northern-Central Adriatic Sea (Torre Predera, Lat 44° 08’ 33’’ N - Long. 12° 34’ 15’’), depth 11 m. Operative since 2004. Real time acquisition oceanographic, meteorological, biogeochemical data on a typical station of Adriatic coastal regions. Station of interest for EU Project EMMA (LIFE). POC: Dr. Mariangela Ravaioli, CNR-ISMAR Bologna. Mail:

BUOY “ODAS ITALIA 1” Ligurian Sea, 37 nm off the coast, depth 1300 m. CNR ISSIA-ISMAR and ENEA meteo-oceanographic buoy. Equipped with meteo sensors (temperature, pressure, humidity, irradiance, precipitation) and marine ones (temperatures, currentmeter, waves). Data are transmitted in real time. POC: Dr. Roberto Bozzano, CNR-ISSIA Genova. Mail:

SENIGALLIA-ZARA-JABUKA PIT TRANSECTS Since 1980, several transects measuring temperature, salinity, oxygen and nutrients have been performed during different national and international projects. 1.5 nm off Senigallia, meteorological and oceanographic sensors (wind speed and direction, air and water temperature, current velocity and direction, sea level) Meteorological sensors at the CNR-ISMAR Ancona building (wind speed and direction, air temperature, atmospheric pressure, solar radiation). Data are transmitted in real time. Site of interest for the LTER initiative. POC: Dr. Enrico Arneri, CNR-ISMAR Ancona. Mail: enrico.arneri@

NORTHERN AND CENTRAL ADRIATIC FOS (Fishery Observing System), data gathering on the fish abundance (Engraulis encrasicolus, Sardina pilchardus). T/S profiles collected through VOS (fishermen). This activity starter on 2003 and is related to EU (MFSTEP) project and National Ministry. POC: Dr. Enrico Arneri, CNR-ISMAR Ancona. Mail: enrico.arneri@

SENIGALLIA BUOY Adriatic Sea (Lat 43° 44’ 21’’ N, Lon: 13° 13’ 13’' E), bottom depth 12.5 m; operative since July 2006. Real time acquisition oceanographic, meteorological data on a typical station of Adriatic coastal regions. POC: Dr. Elio Paschini, CNR-ISMAR Ancona. Mail: elio.paschini@

CORSICA Corsica Channel (Lat 43° 01.75' N, Lon: 09° 41.00' E), bottom depth 450 m; operative since July 1985. Current and hydrographic measurements. The stations has been supported by several national/international projects: Arcipelago Toscano, EUROMODEL, GEODYME, MATER, ALBICOCCA and other minor national projects. POC: Dr. Gian Pietro Gasparini, CNR-ISMAR La Spezia. Mail:

SICILY1 and SICILY2 Sicily Channel Sicily1, (Lat 37° 23.00 N, Lon 11° 35.60 E), bottom depth 450 m; Sicily2, (Lat 37° 16.30' N, Lon 11° 30.10' E), bottom depth 550 m; Both operative since November 1993. Current and hydrographic measurements. The stations has been supported by several national/international projects: EUROMODEL, GEODYME, MATER, VECTOR, SESAME. POC: Dr. Gian Pietro Gasparini, CNR-ISMAR La Spezia. Mail:

IONIAN1 and IONIAN2 Ionian sea Ionian1, (Lat 36° 19.00' N, Lon 16° 05.30' E), bottom depth 3400 m; Ionian2, (Lat 36° 24.00' N, Lon 15° 41.00' E), bottom depth 3300 m; Both operative since May 2007. Current and hydrographic measurements in the deep layer at two depths: 2500 m e 3000 m. The stations are supported by the EU projects KM3Net. POC: Dr. Gian Pietro Gasparini, CNR-ISMAR La Spezia. Mail:

NORTHERN ADRIATIC Network consisting of a station grid collecting data on the hydrology, chemical and biological properties of the water column covering the whole Northern Adriatic basin. Relative abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton and primary production measurements are also assessed, as well as their time series variations. First measurements are dated back to ‘70s and have generally monthly frequency. The station grid has been supported and linked to many national/international projects, such as ASCOP, PRISMA I-II, INTERREG2, INTERREG3, VECTOR. Related to LTER activity. POC: Dr. Giorgio Socal, CNR-ISMAR Venice. Mail:

BARI-DUBROVNIK TRANSECT Since 1985, Bari-Dubrovnik transect measuring temperature, salinity, oxygen, nutrients, particulate matter properties, phytoplankton and zooplankton has been performed during different national and international projects. The station grid has been supported and linked to many national/international projects, such as POEM, POEM B-C, EU-OTRANTO, EU-MATER, SINAPSI, VECTOR. POC: Dr. Giuseppe Civitarese, CNR-ISMAR Trieste. Mail:

SOUTHERN ADRIATIC STATION A1 The station A1 in the Southern Adriatic sea (Lat 41° 49.96 N, Long 17° 46.77 E), bottom depth 1200 m, is operative since 1993. Mooring station measuring current, hydrology and vertical fluxes of particulate matter collected by sediment traps at two depths: 150 m e 1050 m. The station has been supported and linked to many national/international projects, such as POEM, POEM BC, EU-OTRANTO, EU-EUROMARGE-AS, EU-MATER, SINAPSI, VECTOR. Site of interest for the LTER initiative. POC: Dr. Stefano Miserocchi, CNR-ISMAR Bologna. Mail:

COASTAL MONITORING, GULF OF MANFREDONIA (SOUTHERN ARIATIC SEA) A coastal marine monitoring has been mantained in the Gulf of Manfredonia (Southern Adriatic Sea) from May 2002 to November 2004 within the PITAGEM project ( A total of 6 cruises (20 stations in each cruise located along 3 transects perpendicular to the coast and one transect along the coastline) have been performed. In each station surface and bottom water samples were collected for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, silicate, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, chlorophyll a and total suspended solid analyses, furthermore, also a profile of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and fluorescence were recorded by a multi-parametric probe. Besides, a coastal, continuous and superficial profile of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, fluorescence and turbidity was recorded using an on-board pumping system connected to a multi-parametric probe. POC: Dr. Federico Spagnoli, CNR-ISMAR Ancona Mail:

Oceanographic and atmospheric platform in the Gulf of Manfredonia Within the PITAGEM project an oceanographic platform was deployed in the Gulf of Manfredonia (B6 station: to acquire atmospheric data (temperature, pressure, solar radiation, wind speed and direction) every one hour and oceanographic data (temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, fluorescence, turbidity and nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations) at five different water depths every six hours. Data acquired by platform were validated and stored in real time in a web accessible data bank. Data have been collected sporadically from fall 2002 to winter 2004 and more regularly from August 2004 to April 2005. POC: Dr. Federico Spagnoli, CNR-ISMAR Ancona Mail:

Multidisciplinary investigations in the Gulf of Manfredonia (South Adriatic Sea) By the PITAGEM Project (, besides other researches such as new marine instrumentation set up, oceanographic platform deployments and coastal marine monitoring, a multidisciplinary study regarding water column and sediment characteristics, structures and processes and their interactions has been carried out in the gulf of Manfredonia ( In the water column ( nutrient chemistry, trophic state, optical properties, primary production, phytoplankton and meso-zooplankton distributions, water mass circulation and origin were investigated. Moreover, a new approach, based on the use of satellite data and in situ data, has been used to elaborate satellite images (chlorophyll a and temperature) and to investigate biochemistry and hydrography of the Gulf of Manfredonia ( In sediments (, biogeochemical and sedimentological characteristics and processes of the Gulf of Manfredonia were investigated by means of grain size, organic carbon and total nitrogen, total and inorganic phosphorus and major and trace element distributions. In addition, studies about early diagenesis processes and benthic fluxes (nutrients, metals, alkalinity, dissolved organic carbon, dissolved inorganic carbon and dissolved oxygen) have been performed in the Gulf of Manfredonia, in the Southern Adriatic Sea and in the Ionian Sea. POC: Dr. Federico Spagnoli, CNR-ISMAR Ancona Mail:

See also

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The main authors of this article are Schroeder, Friedhelm and Carniel, Sandro
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.