Click On Any Station
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You will be redirected to the data for that station.

What is VBS?

Estuaries and coastal zones are under influence of both climate variability and human impacts, and it is desirable to assess their water quality state and anomaly events to facilitate coastal management. The virtual buoy system (VBS) is established here to meet such needs through satellite measurements, algorithm development, data product customization, and data sharing.

The VBS is based on our Virtual Antenna System (VAS) that obtains low-level satellite data and generates higher-level data products using both NASA standard algorithms and regionally customized algorithms in near real-time.

The VB stations are predefined and carefully chosen to cover water quality gradients in estuaries and coastal waters. The VBS is operated in two ways:

●   It monitors, extracts, and integrates near real-time data into multi-year time series of a variety of water quality parameters which are displayed graphically at weekly and monthly intervals.

●   It checks diffences between weekly and monthly data and compares them with long term climatology allowing it to determine and display varying degrees of positive (reds) and negative (blues) anomalies. These anomalies can be seen on the summary tab of each virtual buoy station, a sample of which is shown below.

Click the "How VBS Works" tab above to see how it works. Further details can also be found in Hu et al. (2014)

VBS Station Summary Tab Layout
VBS Station Summary Tab Layout
Note the Moderate Positve and Negative Anomaies in the above example
VBS Sample Clickable Map
VBS Sample Clickable Map
Each VBS station page has a button to click that opens a
clickable map. Note that each clickable dot has letter identifiers
in from of the station number. This tells the user
which sub-area the dot is in. This is just a sample and
does not function to open a station, but does open this image.

How VBS Works

Three basic steps are used to implement the VBS.

The first is to prepare satellite data products from individual satellite passes. This is through the VAS. Low-level data are downloaded from U.S. NASA every day in near real-time, and then processed using SeaDAS software and software or algorithm written in house. The data products are stored in HDF files.

The second is to design the VBS locations. These are based on user needs, the processing capacity at our Optical Oceanography Laboratory (OOL), and water quality gradients in a specific region. Typically, for a region of interest, there are several to several 10s of VBS station locations. These locations are displayed on a “clickable” map (shown to the right), where a user can click on any of these pre-defined locations to visualize water quality data.

The third is to query the HDF files (step 1) for each of the locations (step 2) to extract and plot the water quality data, with results saved in ASCII data file and png image file. This step is performed once every week and every month to update all the time series data and check for anomalies.

Finally, depending on the region, the water quality data may include some or all the following parameters: sea surface temperature (SST, Co), chlorophyll-a concentration (Chla, mg m-3), turbidity (NTU), diffuse light attenuation at 490 nm (Kd(490), m-1) or secchi disk depth (SDD, m), absorption coefficient of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and bottom available light (BAL, %). The description of each parameter can be found under its corresponding tab on each station's web page.


Go to “Where to Find VBS Data” tab above and select one of the predefined regions. This tab has each of the regions and sub-areas represented and allows you to click though to the first station in a sub-area.

You will first be presented the summary tab that you saw in the previous tab on this page. However, you may click on any other tab on the station page to see the water quality time series data displayed in graph format, with an brief explaination of the data as well. You may also click the links to see the data in ASCII format. Or, you may click on the “clickable map” button found next to each station name. From this clickable map, you can get to (at least) any other station within the sub-area.

In the example below, you see the Kd(488) tab contents of West Florida Shelf Station 04. You can click on the image to see a larger one.

Kd(488) Tab of Station 04 of West Florida Shelf
Station 04 of West Florida Shelf
Note the the two graphs in the above example

Where to Find VBS Data

Currently, VBS covers selected regions in the Gulf of Mexico, Cape Code, and Persian Gulf. In the future other regions may be added, depending on user needs and processing capacity. Each region may contain sub-areas as seen in the clickable links below. Note in each case you will be taken to the first station in the sub-area, and some sub-areas only have one virtual buoy. The selections below may also be found in the menu to the left under "Virtual Buoy Products", however, these are sorted by the satellite data regions from which they were derived. The current regions include:

Florida Panhandle

●  Apalachicola Bay Station 01

●  Offshore Apalachicola Bay Station 01

●  Saint George Sound Station 01

●  Offshore Saint George Sound Station 01

●  Saint Joseph Bay Station 01

●  Offshore Saint Joseph Bay Station 01

●  Saint Andrew Bay Station 01

●  Offshore Saint Andrew Bay Station 01

●  Perdido Bay Station 01

●  Pensacola Bay Station 01

●  Offshore Pensacola Bay Station 01

●  Choctawhatchee Bay Station 01

●  Offshore Choctawhatchee Bay Station 01

Florida Big Bend

●  Apalachee Bay Station 01

●  Offshore Apalachee Bay Station 01

●  Steinhatchee River Station 01

●  Suwannee River Estuary Station 01

Central West Florida

●  Charlotte Harbor Station 01

●  Tampa Bay Station 01

●  West Florida Shelf Station 01

Florida Keys

●  Florida Reef Tract Station 01

●  Straits of Florida Station 01

●  Southwest Florida Bight Station 01

Cape Cod

●  Cape Cod Station 01

Northern Persian Gulf

●  North Persian Gulf Station 01