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NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Implements New Products to Help U.S. Coastal Communities Become More Resilient

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center Implements New Products to Help U.S. Coastal Communities Become More Resilient

The 2014 hurricane season is over and, once again, no major hurricanes (Category 3 of higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) struck the United States. That's a record nine years in row! Of course, it's foolish to believe this remarkable streak will last, and we have to be ready for it to end next season. 

The stakes couldn't be higher. In its latest figures, the Commerce Department's U.S. Census Bureau finds 185 coastal counties along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, home to 58 million people, at risk to a hurricane. It all comes down to preparation, education and accurate forecasting. It's easy to see why one of NOAA's primary goals is to provide the information and services to help communities become more resilient. 

With that in mind, this year the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center introduced an experimental five-day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook to complement its text-only product for both the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific basins. This new outlook provided easy to understand graphics depicting the likelihood of development and the potential formation areas of new tropical cyclones over a five day period. The hurricane center also introduced an experimental Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map for those areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States at risk of storm surge from an approaching tropical cyclone. First used on July 1 as a strengthening Tropical Storm Arthur targeted the North Carolina coastline, the map highlighted those geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur and the height above ground that the water could reach. This information was vital for emergency management authorities and the public in the affected areas. 

Additionally, upgrades to NOAA’s newest hurricane model, the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF), produced excellent forecasts for Hurricane Arthur’s landfall in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and provided outstanding track forecasts in the Atlantic basin through the season. The model, developed by NOAA researchers, is also providing guidance on tropical cyclones around the world and is used by several international operational forecast agencies. All of these improvements are an integral part of the ongoing evolution currently underway at NOAA's National Weather Service.

Challenging Mission, Strong Team

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Our country – the public, businesses, NGOs, non-profits, academic institutions and governments at all levels – relies on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic & Statistics Administration (ESA) to provide timely, relevant, and high-quality data about our population and economy so they can make better decisions. This is no easy task given the sheer magnitude of our nation – we have over 7 million employer- businesses, 320 million people, a Gross Domestic Product of over $17 trillion, and trillions of dollars in international trade. It can make your head spin.  Additionally, keeping track of our economy and population is made all the more difficult because of the dynamism of our country: hundreds of thousands of new businesses start every year; tens of millions of people move; and new industries arise while others decline. On top of all of this, we are in the midst of a data revolution, with rapid advances in private-sector data availability, new data analysis tools, and ever more and changing ways to disseminate data. 

As the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, I ensure our people, programs, and policies are properly aligned and resourced to successfully perform our mission in this rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment. ESA’s three operating units; Commerce’s Office of the Chief Economist, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and the Bureau of Census include a workforce of more than 10,000 dedicated professionals. In addition to our duties and challenges, ESA has been given another mission: to take the lead in achieving goals under the Data Pillar of the Department of Commerce’s Strategic Plan, working across all bureaus in Commerce to fulfill the imperative to “maximize the positive impacts of Commerce data on society.”

To be successful in both my traditional job as ESA Under Secretary and as a leader of the Data Pillar, I need a capable, nimble, leadership team with a diverse set of skills.  None of us can be successful alone; instead we need to be members of strong teams committed to excellence. This post focuses on just one ESA team, that of my immediate office, which has been revamped in the past year. Team members were chosen and the positions created to meet a specific and diverse list of challenges, the most important being continuity, communication, coordination, and planning.

Presidential Task Force Issues Recommendations to Level Playing Field for U.S. Fishermen

Seafood on ice

Earlier today, the U.S. government took additional steps to level the playing field for legitimate U.S. fishermen, and ensure the vitality of marine fish stocks. The Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud, co-chaired by the Departments of State and Commerce, released 15 recommendations to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud and increase consumer confidence in the sustainability of seafood sold in the U.S. 

The recommendations released today include:

  • International: Work with international governments, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, and others to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud at the international level.
  • Enforcement: Strengthen enforcement tools to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
  • Partnerships: Create and expand partnerships with U.S. state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations to identify and eliminate seafood fraud and IUU seafood in U.S. commerce.
  • Traceability: Create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into the U.S. market to prevent entry of illegal product into the supply chain and better inform retailers and consumers.