Surfer Scientists Monitoring Sea Surface Temperatures

Written by on 21st November 2018

In the UK, Bob Brewin is pioneering a new technique in satellite oceanography – by going surfing.

The Plymouth Marine Laboratory scientist uses his surfboard to take sea surface temperature measurements, which he then uses to better interpret satellite data.  He does so because there is a real need for those measurements. He says that in this near-shore region of the ocean there is a lack of observations, such that the accuracy of the satellite observations are not really well known.

The SmartFin is the same size and weight as a normal surfboard fin, but it contains a temperature sensor, a GPS device, and an accelerometer for measuring motion. It also has Bluetooth capabilities to transfer the temperature and motion data from the fin onto his mobile phone.

Therefore, every time Bob surfs – which is at least once a week – the fin records the temperature. The approach constitutes a new way of monitoring the near-shore of the English coastline, a place which is important for many forms of life.

“It’s a vitally important region of our seas,” explains Bob. “It contains very high levels of marine biodiversity, marine productivity, it’s the spawning ground for many economically important species of fish. And it’s the foraging ground for marine vertebrates such as seabirds, kitty wakes and guillemots.”

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