Surface current and wave variability experiment

See all projects

The SCAWVEX (MAS2-CT94-0103) project, 01/02/95 – 31/01/98

Project coordinator: L. Wyatt, the University of Sheffield

Partners: K-W. Gurgel, Institut fur Meereskunde; K. van Ruiten, RWS-RIKZ; H. E. Krogstad, SINTEF; S. Barstow, Oceanor; D. Prandle, Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory; H. Gerritsen, Delft Hydraulics; G. J. Wensink, Argoss.


This was an EC MAST (Marine Science and Technology Programme) project to study the variability of waves and currents. Central to the project is the use of HF radar to measure waves and currents simultaneously. Also fundamental is the intercomparison of different measurement techniques.

The SCAWVEX project was addressing problems in wave and current development and their interaction in shallow water environments. The primary object was to measure the spatial and temporal variability of waves and currents in coastal regions utilising the full range of state of the art measurement techniques and models.

Three experiments contributed to the programme (see maps below). At Holderness (on the north-east coast of England) the environment is primarily one of fetch-limited wind wave development. Petten (in the Netherlands) is more exposed to west, north westerly storms but with a similar smoothly varying (both parallel and perpendicular to the coast) bathymetry. The Rhine Outflow (also in the Netherlands) provides a contrast (and more of a challenge to some instruments) both in the more complex bathymetric variation and in the volume of shipping.

The Rhine Outflow may impose some limitations on the HF radar measurements since ship echoes (unless anchored) tend to fall in the frequency range containing the wave echoes.

Find out more the project

Analysis and reports

The measurement systems used in these experiments included

  • HF radar

  • synthetic aperture radar (SAR)

  • satellite altimeter

  • accelerometers

  • ADCP

  • current meters

  • pressure cells

  • X-band ground-based radar

These systems were being intercompared to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to quantify measurement accuracies. This information is being used in the development of optimisation methodologies to combine measurements and models to give the best estimates of wave and current fields.

Data sets have been prepared for wider use in the modelling community that provide examples of wave transformations in shallow water, time/space scales of wave development and current variability and wave/current/bathymetry interaction. These data sets could be used for other approaches to the measurement/model integration problem perhaps with particular applications in mind.


These can be accessed at the University of Hamburg Radar Database. The CD-ROMs include the updated versions of the Maasmond and Petten CD-ROMs and two HF radar current CD-ROMs.


The maps below of each experiment show the bathymetry, the locations of the radar sites and the in-situ wave measurements.

SCAWVEX experiments – map showing HF radar sites: Holderness, Petten and Maasmond.

The Holderness experiment

Radar site, radar measurement and in-situ wave measurement.

The Petten experiment

Petten with WERA: Radar site, radar measurement and in-situ wave measurement.

More information is available on the University of Hamburg HF radar website.

The Maasmond experiment

Maasmond with WERA: Radar site, radar measurement and in-situ wave measurement.

More information is available on the University of Hamburg HF radar website.