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May 30, 2020

This page last modified:
March 21, 2001

Environmental Monitoring Stations Keep an Eye On Keys

by Nancy Diersing

University of Florida/Monroe County Cooperative Extension

Florida Bay Education Project

Have you ever wondered how the peak wind gusts were recorded during Hurricane Georges? Where were the measurements taken? Environmental factors, including wind speed, wind direction, air temperature and barometric pressure are continually recorded at seven permanent C-MAN (Coastal Marine Automated Network) stations located at several of the reef lighthouses in the Florida Keys and in Florida Bay.

The C-MAN stations are part of the SEAKEYS network, a collaborative effort by Florida Institute of Oceanography and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which generates real-time data from the various sites via satellite. Some C-MAN stations report wave information, sea surface temperature, visibility, and dew point. A few C-MAN stations also measure chlorophyll concentrations and suspended sediments. Data generated from the C-MAN sites are used by research scientists and ecosystem managers to help them gain an understanding of the many factors which influence water quality.

In addition to the C-MAN stations, the National Data Buoy Center, a part of the National Weather Service, operates a network of buoy stations to provide hourly wind and wave measurements. Currently, the National Data Buoy Center operates 65 buoy and 54 C-MAN stations located in the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. Forecasters with the National Weather Service use the marine observations as they determine conditions and prepare forecasts.

According to Trent Moore, Assistant Field Manager, Florida Institute of Oceanography SEAKEYS Project, the peak wind gusts during Hurricane Georges were recorded at Sombrero Key. Although the official wind speed will be officially published by the National Hurricane Center at a future date it has estimated that the winds may have reached 105 mph, with sustained winds at 94 mph. The lowest barometric pressure recorded during Georges was 980.3 millibars at Sand Key near Key West. By comparison, the lowest barometric pressure during Hurricane Andrew, recorded at Fowey Rocks near Miami, was 967.5 millibars. The Fowey station also recorded the lowest barometric pressure for Tropical Storm Mitch, 995.9 millibars.

Mariners seeking current wind and water conditions can obtain coastal and offshore reports through the National Data Buoy Center's Web site or through Dial-A-Buoy (228) 688-1948. Historical oceanographic data and the SEAKEYS/C-MAN Bulletins are also available through the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meterological Laboratory web site:

For more information contact the Florida Bay Education Project at 305-852-3592. Additional information on a variety of topics is available from the University of Florida/Monroe County Cooperative Extension Service, 5100 College Road, Stock Island or call at 292-4501; fax: 292-4415; email: or visit our web site Our services are free and available to all without regard to race, color, sex, or national origin.

The Florida Bay Education Project is an archived site. For more information go to NOAA's South Florida Ecosystem Education Project at