About Ocean Observing Systems

Ocean observing systems are designed to collect ocean and weather data and forecast ocean conditions in order to provide information to a variety of users including commercial and recreational mariners, emergency and coastal managers and responders, researchers and educators and many more.

Observing systems consist of sensors that collect data, the platforms that host these sensors, and technology that sends the data to a data collection center, often with satellite or cell phone telemetry. Observing systems also include computer models that produce forecasts of ocean conditions.

The primary ocean observing technologies used in NERACOOS are:
Oceanographic buoys and sensors
Coastal radar
Computer models


Oceanographic buoys

NERACOOS supports a variety of buoys that are located throughout the region. These buoys gather weather and ocean data from sensors mounted on the buoy and attached to its mooring system. The observations from buoys are used on a daily basis by mariners and many others operating on the ocean and the long history of data being collected is critical for understanding the variability in our ocean and coastal waters.

NERACOOS partners with several New England research institutions for the operations and maintenance of our ocean observing buoys. Our research partners include the University of Maine, the University of Connecticut, and the University of New Hampshire. In addition we integrate observations from other groups in the region such operating buoys like the National Data Buoy Center.

Hourly data from NERACOOS and other buoys in the region are available on the real-time data portal.

Historical data is available at the graphing and download tool.


Coastal radar

NERACOOS supports a system of High Frequency (HF) radars, which form a land based system used for measuring sea surface currents. Measurements can be made at long range, across wide areas, using a just a few carefully located radar units. This system generates hourly maps of current speed and direction for large expanses of the region. The data is fed to the US Coast Guard and is critical to search and rescue operations.

View the location of the HF radar units and the latest measurements on the NERACOOS surface currents viewer.

NERACOOS partners with the University of Maine for the operations and maintenance of HF radar units along the Gulf of Maine coast. MARACOOS, the regional observing system to our south, supports HF radar units in southern New England that are operated by the Universities of Massachusetts and Connecticut.


Computer models

NERACOOS supports two ocean forecasting efforts, the Northeast Coastal Ocean Forecast System (NeCOFS) and the Gulf of Maine wave forecast system. These complementary forecasting systems provide a suite of ocean forecasts for the northeast.

NECOFS is a coupled atmosphere-ocean model system designed for the northeast US coastal and Canadian Maritime region covering a domain from the south of Long-Island to the north of the Nova Scotia. NeCOFS produces three day forecasts of a variety of ocean variables including waves, temperature, salinity and density. A number of higher resolution forecast models are nested within the NECOFS domain including the Massachusetts Bay and the Coastal Inundation Forecast System.  NECOFS is operated by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

To view ocean forecasts visit NECOFS.

The Gulf of Maine wave forecast system produces a three day forecast of wave height, period and direction for the Gulf of Maine region. This forecast system is operated by the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

To view the latest wave forecast visit the NERACOOS wave forecast page.



There are several satellites that carry specialized sensors for measuring ocean conditions over large areas of the ocean. Common products from satellites include sea surface temperature and chlorophyll.

NERACOOS delivers daily satellite images of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll which provide a “big picture” view of conditions in our region.

Satellite images are provided by the Satellite Oceanography Laboratory at the University of Maine.  To access historical satellite data, click here.  To access real time satellite data, click here.