sensors for meteorological and oceanographic data, Kelly would like to see the system eventually expanded to 12 buoys. "You don't need a huge quantity of these things, just enough so that you can begin to guess fairly accurately what is going on between them. One of our R&D tasks is to take the surface current information and the sea-level data, and put them all together into an interpolation "now-cast" of the current. If you have a now-cast, then with the model you can forecast. What we want to do is now-cast the currents offshore. With these buoys, we can begin to do that."

In the face of rising oil imports and increasing tanker traffic along U.S. coasts, states like Texas are looking for more effective ways to protect beaches, wildlife and marine resources from the ravages of oil spills. Technologies like TABS may hold some of the answers to eventually eliminating spills before they come ashore. If the cost of achieving that goal seems high, it is insignificant compared to the price of an Exxon Valdez.

Bill McGarigle is a freelance writer specializing in GIS, GPS, and marine-related topics. E-mail: .

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