Coastal HF Radar


The HF Radar  

The HF Radar (High Frequency) is a system which emits radio waves which enable the trajectory and velocity of superficial marine currents to be studied.

SOCIB has a HF Radar system made up of two antennas, one in Ibiza and another in Formentera, which reveal the trajectory of the superficial currents in the Ibiza channel.  This area is of great importance due to the interaction of Atlantic water masses, which enter via the strait of Gibraltar, with Mediterranean water masses.  The interaction of the two has a huge impact on the Mediterranean climate and the biodiversity of the area.


In the same way that conventional radars control road speeds or air traffic, the HF Radar emits a High Frequency radio signal which reaches the rough surface of the moving sea, which in turn reflects a wave which is captured back by the antenna.  This reflected signal allows the velocity at which the surface of the sea moves to be calculated.

To obtain complete data for the superficial velocity, two antennas are necessary, a transmitting antenna and a receiving antenna to capture the reflected signal.  A computer system analyses this signal to determine the swell and currents.  The radial data from both stations, Ibiza and Formentera, is combined to create total vectors of superficial currents with a spatial resolution of 3 kilometres and a scope of up to 70 kilometres.  This data is used to produce numerical models which generate oceanographic forecasts.

These are low power emissions and do not represent any danger for the marine or terrestrial environments.  So it is possible to safely observe, in real-time, the trajectory of the superficial currents and the formation of eddies.


The HF Radar technology provides real-time observational data of the superficial currents via coastal stations.

Understanding marine currents is of great importance for the development of activities linked to maritime transport, recreational boating or the construction of dykes and ports.  Thanks to the development of various monitoring instruments, currents are recorded by means of devices in the sea such as buoys or current metres, which supplement the data from the HF Radar.



This technology provides information about sea state close to the coast, so it has multiple uses:

Maritime Rescue: gives information about the trajectory of a vessel or drifting object.

Knowledge of the Marine Environment: Enables sound risk management, provides support for decision making and AIS navigation.

Sustainable Fisheries: the study of currents provides knowledge about the transport of fish larvae, such as Bluefin tuna for example.

Water Quality: Tracking jellyfish and marine debris.​​

Contamination of the Marine Environment: Enables you to form plans of action in the event of marine contamination, such as major oil spills.