IOOS Technology

Each observing system uses a variety of platforms to collect data. The following are the major types of platforms used in IOOS.

Fixed Platforms


Moorings include a number of technologies that are moored to the ocean floor with a floating surface structure. Buoys can be for a single purpose such as waves or include a variety of sensors mounted both above and below the water surface.  Most buoys relay data back to shore in real-time.   Profiling buoys include sensor packages that regularly move up and down the mooring rope providing a comprehensive look at the water quality.  Buoys can be outfitted with sensors for wind, waves, currents, salinity, chlorophyll, ocean chemistry and biology.  

Shore Station
Shores stations are installed on coastal beaches, islands, on piers and offshore platforms to provide wind speed, gust and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, solar radiation, rainfall, water temperature data and more. These basic measurements provide important real time information on storms and helps predict changes to the weather and climate. 


Transect Lines


A glider is an autonomous, unmanned underwater vehicle that can be equipped with sensors that can measure ocean properties such as water temperature, Chlorophyll A, salinity and fish acoustics. It sawtooths up and down the water column and follows a GPS path set by the researcher. Every few hours the glider surfaces to call home, transmits data and awaits further instructions.  Gliders are flexible platforms that can be used for continuous monitoring and can be deployed in the event of an oil spill or harmful algae bloom and other major events.


Ships have been used to collect ocean information since the days of Captain Cook.  Research and fisheries vessels carry a variety of sensors to gather physical, chemical and biological information on ocean conditions along the cruise route. Some sensors are mounted on the ship and take regular measurements of water and atmospheric conditions.  Scientists also deploy instruments into the ocean and Great Lakes to gather information on conditions throughout the water column. 


Remote Sensing


High Frequency Radar
Land-based high frequency radar (HFR) provide real-time information on the speed and direction of surface currents over a large coverage area. This information can be useful in tracking oil or other hazardous materials and harmful algal blooms. Because of the large coverage area, HFR data also are valuable input for ocean models and for assisting with search and rescue operations at sea.  IOOS operates the nation’s only HFR network provide data to the Coast Guard and NOAA for use in search and rescue and spill response.

Observations from satellites are an essential component of IOOS.  Earth observing satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 500 to over 20,000 miles and collect imagery that allows us to measure ocean conditions including sea surface temperature, ocean color, and sea surface height.  Satellite data can be used to identify ocean fronts, harmful algae blooms, oil spills, hurricanes and polar ice distributions




Statistical and numerical models are powerful tools that can forecast ocean and Great Lake conditions. IOOS observation data is incorporated into computer models that simulate the coastal environment. Models can be used to forecast circulation patterns, flooding, the movement of harmful algae, fish larvae or pollutants through the ecosystem, and more.