NOAA to Study Ocean Currents near Former Munitions Disposal Sites in Hawaii 

July 21, 2009

Map of sensor deployment locations.

Map of sensor deployment locations.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA will place ocean current monitoring sensors at two former military munitions disposal sites off Oahu this week as part of an ongoing effort to assess the potential impact of sea-disposed military munitions in Hawaii. The sensor deployment is part of a broader effort by NOAA, the Department of Defense and University of Hawaii to provide information to federal, state and local officials. NOAA conducted a preliminary assessment of the Ordnance Reef site in 2006.

“NOAA is pleased to continue collecting critical information about Hawaii’s marine environment for the community,” said Jason Rolfe, physical scientist with NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. “These sensors will collect data that has not been previously available and will give us a better understanding of the ocean conditions in the area.”

On July 24-25, researchers will deploy four high-precision sensor arrays at a conventional munitions disposal site off Waianae known locally as “Ordnance Reef” and one sensor array at a deep-water chemical munitions disposal site approximately 32 miles from Honolulu. Crews aboard the NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai and University of Hawaii Research Vessel Klaus Wyrtki will deploy the submerged sensors at depths ranging from 50 to 8,000 feet.

The stationary sensors will record the speed and direction of ocean currents over a one-year period. In addition to providing data needed to determine where Pacific Ocean currents might carry munitions materials in the event of a release, the sensors will help NOAA and University of Hawaii scientists study how munitions might be affected by the marine environment. The data will also be used in an integrated observing and prediction system that monitors ocean circulation, water quality, and biological productivity off Oahu’s south shore.

NOAA developed the data collection plan with input from the Ordnance Reef Coordinating Council, which includes representatives from the Department of Defense, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Waianae Neighborhood Board, University of Hawaii and EPA. NOAA offices involved include the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Office of Response and Restoration and the National Data Buoy Center. NOAA will make all data collected by the sensors available to the coordinating council and the public.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.