UCI scientists use near real-time sensor data to detect coastal ocean pollution

Irvine, Calif., Sept. 18, 2006 -- A discovery by UC Irvine scientists could help public health officials know instantly when pollution has moved into the coastal ocean -- a breakthrough that could enable authorities to post warnings or close beaches in minutes rather than days.

The new technique analyzes temperature and salinity data collected by sensors located in the water along the Southern California coast. Researchers found that fluctuations in the sensor data correlate with changes in water quality as soon as they occur. This type of analysis may lead to detection methods that are far faster than the current method of physically collecting water and testing it in a lab.

"Decisions to post a warning or close a beach are currently made one to three days after a sample is collected. This would be fine if you were testing water that sits in a tub, but ocean currents are highly dynamic, and water quality varies hour by hour and minute to minute," said Stanley B. Grant, professor of chemical engineering and materials science at UCI. "Our research shows that near real-time sensor data can be used to detect changes in the state of the coastal ocean -- information that could, in concert with traditional monitoring data and new ocean observing systems, eventually result in the creation of an up-to-the-minute water-quality report accessible by the public on the Internet."

Grant, along with Brett F. Sanders, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and graduate student Youngsul Jeong published their research in the current online issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

Coastal ocean observing systems -- devices that use technology to sense environmental conditions -- collect large amounts of data such as temperature, salinity and water level. The data is streamed in near real-time via the Internet for scientists and coastal managers to process and interpret.

These sensors cannot measure bacteri

Contact: Jennifer Fitzenberger
University of California - Irvine

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