Environmental Protection

153 Countries Sign Treaty on Ocean Radar Improvements

The Feb. 17 agreement during the World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) held in Geneva, Switzerland, means better tracking of tsunamis, oil spills, ocean debris and people lost at sea.

The International Telecommunication Union’s World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12) concluded Feb. 17 with agreement on a number of items, including improved ocean radar technology. This will yield better tracking of tsunamis, oil spills, ocean debris, and people lost at sea, according to the National Science Foundation. The meeting took place from Jan. 23 to Feb. 17 in Geneva, Switzerland.

After recent destructive tsunamis and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill increased interest in ocean radars, which have operated informally and would be quickly shut down if they caused interference with other radio systems, according to NSF. But action taken at the meeting provides specific radio frequency bands for ocean radars -– small systems typically installed on beaches and using radio signals to map ocean currents to distances as far as 100 miles.

"The WRC's decision to identify dedicated ocean radar bands will help speed up technological development of these radars. Many countries, particularly those recently devastated by ocean disasters, were particularly interested in reaching a global agreement for the use of ocean radars," said Andrew Clegg, a radio spectrum manager with NSF who chaired the international drafting group that developed the ocean radar spectrum solution.

U.S. agencies and institutions that fund or operate ocean radars include NSF, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense, universities, and research organizations.

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