6 Ways SOCIB is researching the ocean

From ancient times, the fascination with the sea has driven humanity to cross the ocean, regardless of its extent and hostility, leading to the birth of modern oceanography in the late nineteenth century, based primarily on scientific expeditions that could last years. From the 1980s onwards, oceanography underwent a radical transformation, long campaigns aboard oceanographic vessels gave way to permanent monitoring of the ocean through new instruments and on-site observation technologies, on the coast or from space via satellites. In this context, ocean observation infrastructures such as the Balearic Islands Coastal Observing and Forecasting System (SOCIB) have gained special relevance, as they offer data, scientific knowledge, products, and services to the scientific community, the marine industry, decision makers, and the general public.

SOCIB operates a multi-platform observing and forecasting system that continuously and sustainably (365 days a year, 24 hours a day) monitors the western Mediterranean and especially the Balearic Sea. This system includes surface drifting buoys, profilers, coastal stations installed in different ports and coastal areas of the Balearic Islands, metocean buoys installed in the Ibiza Channel and the Bay of Palma, the Research Vessel R/V SOCIB, high-frequency coastal radar stations installed in Ibiza and Formentera, gliders and beach monitoring systems installed on different beaches in the Balearic Islands. Learn about six of these ocean observing tools below - maybe you have already seen some in the Mediterranean Sea!

Idealised representation of the SOCIB’s multi-platform system.

Idealised representation of the SOCIB’s multi-platform system.

1/ The lagrangian platforms

The lagrangian platforms are autonomous observation platforms that are allowed to drift freely and whilst recording their position. The SOCIB Lagrangian Platform Facility is made up of surface drifting buoys and profilers which are launched out at sea, and their movements, directed by the surface currents, are monitored. Their position is located via satellite positioning so their trajectory and velocity can be calculated and their paths provide a map of the currents.
Know more about the Lagrangian platforms

2/ The fixed stations

The SOCIB Fixed stations Facility is a real-time monitoring system for obtaining reliable data relating to different oceanographic parameters (such as waves, currents, temperature, and salinity) and also meteorological parameters (atmospheric pressure, wind speed, or air temperature) through a network of infrastructures made up of coastal stations, oceanographic buoys, sea level stations, and weather stations. This network of fixed infrastructures with cutting-edge technology represents a commitment to operational oceanography and constant improvement of the oceanographic forecasting systems.
Know more about the fixed stations

3/ The Research Vessel SOCIB

The Research Vessel R/V SOCIB is a coastal catamaran specially designed to study the Mediterranean Sea and to support oceanographic research projects both at national and international levels. It has a length of 24 meters and is equipped with the latest technological advances and equipment to carry out multidisciplinary research. Each year it carries out oceanographic campaigns, including the “CANALES” campaigns, within the framework of the permanent observation of the Mallorca and Ibiza Channels carried out by SOCIB. These campaigns allow advancing in the knowledge of the state and variability of the Balearic Sea and concretely of these biodiversity hotspots of great relevance and interest.
Know more about the R/V SOCIB

4/ The HF Radar

The HF Radar (High Frequency) is a system that emits radio waves enabling the trajectory and velocity of superficial marine currents to be studied. SOCIB has an HF Radar system made up of two antennas, one in Ibiza and another in Formentera, which reveal the trajectory of the superficial currents in the Ibiza channel. This area is of great importance due to the interaction of Atlantic water masses, which enter via the strait of Gibraltar, with Mediterranean water masses. The interaction of the two has a huge impact on the Mediterranean climate and the biodiversity of the area.
Know more about the HF Radar

5/ The Gliders

Underwater gliders are autonomous vehicles that are revolutionising oceanographic research today since they make it possible to monitor the sea state in real-time. Gliders are equipped with sensors to gain information about physicochemical parameters from the seawater. Gliders are capable of collecting data relating to conductivity, temperature, depth, chlorophyll, and oxygen via their sensors over long periods. They have become great allies for researchers due to their ability to complete missions autonomously with durations of weeks, or months so that data about marine currents can be collected at a much higher resolution, in real-time, and at a lower cost than surveys carried out by ocean research vessels. Another big advantage is that they can explore without the need for an engine or propeller and they consume very little energy.
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6/ The Beach Monitoring Facility

The SOCIB Beach Monitoring Facility consists of a modular beach integral monitoring system by means of coastal video monitoring techniques, the collection of meteorological and oceanographic data in-situ, thanks to current metres, tide gauges, and weather stations located at various key points along the Balearic coast. This innovative system of real-time data collection is combined with research surveys and a regular program of bathymetric and topographic surveys as well as sediment sampling at different beaches.
Know more about the Beach Monitoring Facility