Littoral Research Revolutionizes Understanding of Rip Currents
Naval Postgraduate School Public Affairs Office
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In surf zones near the Naval Postgraduate School and around the world, NPS Oceanography Assistant Professor Jamie MacMahan is quietly revolutionizing the understanding of rip currents, turning them from a swimmer’s worst nightmare into a friend. Instead of expensive GPS sensors that relay position data in real time, MacMahan and his students mount low-cost GPS devices with memory cards inside swarms of drifters whose brightly-colored florescent poles bob in the waves like giant pick-up sticks. The dozens of position-tracking sensors are then retrieved and their saved location and velocity data post-processed to reveal detailed surf zone flow patterns across various wave and tidal conditions.
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