GCOOS Data Provider Highlight:  Wave-Current-Surge Information System (WAVCIS)


Figure 1. WAVCIS CSI6 Station on Chevron Texaco Platform, South of Terrebonne Bay (Credit: WAVCIS)


GCOOS is publishing an ongoing series of stories about our critically important data providers to the GCOOS Data Portal and Products.  These data providers are the building blocks upon which GCOOS is based; many of these providers and their programs have been collecting and providing observational data individually before the formal existence of GCOOS. GCOOS brings these providers together and offers a collective, more comprehensive view of the Gulf for stakeholders through our Portal and Products pages. GCOOS also provides many data providers with financial support for data management and operations and maintenance, as well as tools and standards to make their data more accessible and interoperable with other data sets.




WAVCIS (http://www.wavcis.lsu.edu/ ), a program based at the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), School of the Coast and Environment, Louisiana State University, maintains several offshore real-time observing stations on oil and gas industry platforms.  Founded by the late and distinguished Dr. Gregory Stone, the purpose of this program is to provide near real-time information for ocean and weather conditions to support research, education, model needs, and general information. WAVCIS is the only lab in Louisiana that manages real time offshore ocean observing stations. The WAVCIS lab includes highly-trained personnel, including Bill Gibson, Steven Jones, Drs. Baozhu Liu, Peter Luo, and Chunyan Li (Program Director), and a few graduate students (Figure 2).  The group designs, fabricates, operates and maintains the WAVCIS stations.  


Figure 2. The WAVCIS Team. From left to right: Baozhu Liu, Yixin (Peter) Luo, Mohammadnabi Allahdadi, Qian Zhang, Christopher Kunz, Charlie Sibley, Chunyan Li, Bill Gibson, Chris Cleaver, Steven Jones (Credit: WAVCIS)


Need for the WAVCIS Monitoring Program

Prior to the inception of WAVCIS, ongoing accurate reports on sea state, surface currents, and meteorology off the Louisiana coast were not available with the exception of a National Data Buoy Center buoy (NDBC 42040) located approximately 100 km (62 miles) east of the mouth of the Mississippi River (Figure 3). The entire stretch of coastline from Breton Sound to the Louisiana-Texas border was devoid of instrumentation capable of supplying accurate sea state conditions on a regular basis. These data were, however, available for every other state in the Gulf of Mexico through the NDBC network of buoys. Only water level information was obtained from two CMAN stations at Grand Isle, LA and the mouth of the Mississippi River. Thus, at best, reports on offshore conditions were generally inadequate because they relied on spatially constrained observations from oil platforms, ships, or from wind hindcasts. The closest source of sea state information for south central Louisiana was 480 km (300 miles) south of the coastline (NDBC Buoy 42001).



Figure 3.  Distribution of NDBC and CMAN Stations in the Gulf of Mexico (Credit: WAVCIS)

WAVCIS Program Overview

WAVCIS includes offshore deployment of instruments south of the State of Louisiana coast to provide real-time information every hour or less describing sea state, surface current and meteorological conditions (Figure 4).  


Figure 4. Map of WAVCIS Stations (Credit: WAVCIS)


The instrumentation provides information from deep to shallow water off the Louisiana coast in addition to the major bays. The offshore observing stations are located at CSI 3, CSI 5, CSI 6, CSI 9, CSI 15, and CSI 16, primarily on existing oil and gas platforms. Due to budget cuts in last few years to funded projects and challenges to obtain new projects to support the large observation network, only CSI 3 (South of Vermillion Bay), CSI 6 (South of Terrebonne Bay), and CSI 9 (Grand Isle) are currently operating. WAVCIS is currently unable to keep providing critical data from stations CSI 5 (South of Terrebonne Bay, but closer to shore), CSI 15 (South of Isles Dernieres), and 16 (near the Mississippi River outlet).  WAVCIS however remains as the lab providing the only offshore real time met-ocean data along much of the northern Gulf of Mexico coastline.  Each station includes hardware and software developed at CSI at LSU. The hardware comprising the monitoring station consists of three components; power supply, measurement module, and communication module. The software includes the remote control and communication module as well as the data processing module. The data include both measurements for weather conditions (sustained wind speed, wind direction, sea surface temperature, wind gust, air temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, and visibility) and ocean conditions (significant wave height, maximum wave height, average wave period, dominant wave period, peak wave direction, directional wave spectrum, vertical distribution of current speed and current direction, and water depth). An example data plot is included in Figure 5.



Figure 5. WAVCIS Significant Wave Height Data Plot, 2/26/14 – 3/26/14 (Credit: WAVCIS)


WAVCIS is an end-to-end system including everything from data collection to data dissemination. Information from each station is transmitted by a solar powered cellular link to a base station at Louisiana State University where it undergoes quality control, post-processing and archiving in an online database (Figure 6). The data are sent through the internet in near real-time to GCOOS and the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC), as well to the WAVCIS web page. WAVCIS provides free and automated, online access to observational data for up to 12 months after the measurement was taken. For any data older than 12 months, interested parties can send an email requesting the data sets.


Figure 6. WAVCIS End-to-End System: Data Collection to Data Dissemination (Credit: WAVCIS)


Researchers, students, general public, attorneys, industries, managers, and others have used the WAVCIS data.  For example, in addition to the use of WAVCIS data for ongoing projects and research [e.g. Li et al. 2011] and BP oil spill related research, students have been using the WAVCIS data for their PhD. dissertations [e.g. Rego and Li, 2009] or Master’s Degree theses [e.g. Feng and Li, 2010], which are mostly published later in peer-reviewed journals. The WAVCIS lab and other users throughout the country (e.g., some ADCRIC modelers) have been extensively using the data for storm surge model validation and verifications.


WAVCIS has recently expanded to include numerous long-term observing stations in the tidal passes and estuaries that are not part of the real time observing system.  These stations are in the Calcasieu Pass, Barataria Pass, Caminada Pass, Pass Abel, and Breton Sound, with six Doppler current meters (with three more planned for deployment) and conductivity, temperature, turbidity, and water level sensors. These additional stations, although with no real-time data at this moment, are providing important supplemental information for use by a variety of stakeholders, including, researchers, students, state agencies, and those interested in model validations.  


In addition to the observational data, WAVCIS also provides near real-time model forecasts (60- and 120-hour) of the wind and wave conditions inside the Gulf of Mexico on its web site, as well as forecasts of surface currents, water levels, temperature and salinity from the HYCOM model. The model run is done on the WAVCIS dedicated high-speed cluster computer.




WAVCIS partners with GCOOS as a data provider to the GCOOS data portal, which is managed by Drs. Matt Howard and Felimon Gayanilo.  In turn, GCOOS provides financial support to WAVCIS for data management and for some operations and maintenance. GCOOS also offers tools and standards to help make the WAVCIS data more publicly available and interoperable with other Gulf data sets. Other active WAVCIS partners include: NOAA, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, BP, and Chevron Texaco.  Past WAVCIS partners include: Minerals Management Service/Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Shell Oil Company, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Louisiana Board of Regents, Center for Coastal, Energy, and Environmental Resources, National Park Service, Naval Oceanographic Office, Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office (Office of Governor), Louisiana Oil Spill Research and Development Program, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Northern Gulf Institute, LSU Hurricane Center, U.S. Coast Guard, RDI Instruments, DHI Water and Environment, and others.


Next Steps for WAVCIS


WAVCIS is actively seeking for ways to update its infrastructure with newer and more reliable technology.  WAVCIS is currently working on obtaining funding to use better data loggers, sensors, and more economic and reliable satellite data transmission in real-time.  More specifically, WAVCIS is working with Nortek and Okeanus Science and Technology to enhance measurements of flow velocity in Louisiana coastal water in the near future.  WAVCIS has been working on the development of unmanned survey capabilities and it will also pursue the establishment of High Frequency Radar for surface current and wave conditions along the Louisiana coast.


For More Information

For more information on WAVCIS, contact Dr. Chunyan Li at cli@lsu.edu  or visit the website at http://wavcis.csi.lsu.edu/index.asp.  You may also check http://www.oceandynamics.lsu.edu/ or the following articles:


Li, C., H. Roberts, G. Stone, E. Weeks, Y. Luo, 2011. Wind surge and saltwater intrusion in Atchafalaya Bay under onshore winds prior to cold front passage, Hydrobiologia, 658:27–39, DOI 10.1007/s10750-010-0467-5.

Feng, Z., and C. Li. 2010. Cold-front-induced Flushing of the Louisiana Bays, Journal of Marine System, 82: 252-264.


Rego, J., and C. Li.  2009. On the importance of the forward speed of hurricanes in storm surge forecasting: A numerical study, Geophysical Research Letters, VOL. 36, L07609.