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Blog Category: Under Secretary and Administrator for NOAA Jane Lubchenco

NOAA: Arctic Continues to Break Records in 2012

Arctic iceberg

Becoming warmer, greener region with record losses of summer sea ice and late spring snow 

The Arctic region continued to break records in 2012—among them the loss of summer sea ice, spring snow cover, and melting of the Greenland ice sheet. This was true even though air temperatures in the Arctic were unremarkable relative to the last decade, according to a new report released today.

“The Arctic is changing in both predictable and unpredictable ways, so we must expect surprises,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, during a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, Calif. “The Arctic is an extremely sensitive part of the world and with the warming scientists have observed, we see the results with less snow and sea ice, greater ice sheet melt and changing vegetation.”

Lubchenco participated in a panel discussion that presented the annual update of the Arctic Report Card, which has, since 2006, summarized the quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. A record-breaking 141 authors from 15 countries contributed to the peer-reviewed report.  Full NOAA release

NOAA Predicts a Near-Normal 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Satellite image of Hurricane Irene, 2011

Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew underscores necessity to prepare every year

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms with top winds of 39 mph or higher, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane with top winds of 74 mph or higher, and of those, one to three will become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5. Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.” Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.

Favoring storm development in 2012: the continuation of the overall conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in 1995, in addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main Development Region. Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.  Full NOAA press release

Building a Weather-Ready Nation

Luchenco on-screen video conference

This week, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) kicked-off a national dialogue to improve our nation’s readiness for extreme weather. At the Weather-Ready Nation: A Vital Conversation workshop, held in Norman, Okla., participants assessed why the nation has become more vulnerable to severe weather and identified ways to improve the public’s awareness, preparedness and response to future extreme events.

More than 1,000 lives have been lost this year to extreme weather, including about 550 from tornadoes. And the economic losses are equally staggering—at least 12 separate weather disasters, each with $1 billion or more in economic losses.

These impacts moved NOAA’s National Weather Service to launch an initiative called Weather-Ready Nation. The goal is to improve America’s readiness for weather events and save more lives and livelihoods. The Norman event is the first in a series of Weather-Ready Nation activities to be held across the country.

NOAA’s Lubchenco: Putting Science to Work for Everyone

ABC correspondent and town hall moderator Clayton Sandell, Lubchenco and Jim Crocker, Trustee, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco kicked off a nine-day trip to Colorado, California and Alaska with a town hall discussion at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on Wednesday, Aug. 17. ABC Denver correspondent Clayton Sandell moderated the discussion.  Dr. Lubchenco, a Colorado native, focused the discussion on NOAA’s value to the nation and Colorado, especially at a time when extreme weather events are creating serious challenges for people and communities. Later in Aspen, she spoke at the 8th  Annual American Renewable Energy Day Conference.

At the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, she said:

Our scientists build and improve our understanding of how the world works and how it is changing.  But we do so much more than that.  But we do so much more than that. NOAA puts that science to work for everyone – each and every day.  NOAA scientists use science to create and share trusted information and solutions to some of the greatest challenges on this planet:  such as knowing when and where severe storms will strike, testing seafood for safety, tracking and understanding climate change, using satellite to guide search and rescue operation, responding to oil spills, and working to restore oceans to a healthy state. So, these may seem like a disparate collection of services and stewardship, but they center around oceans, coasts, climate and weather- and are all based on science.

and

Science plays a pivotal role in our lives every day.  All things NOAA start with science. For less than a nickel a day, per person per year, NOAA puts that science to work for every American providing essential services:

  • Like healthy oceans.
  • Like severe weather forecasting, warnings and research.
  • Like disaster preparedness, and oil spill response and habitat restoration.
  • Like seafood safety testing and satellite-aided search and rescue.
One of the best bargains in the country! Using science, we develop solutions for a sustainable future– a future with natural resources that our families, our grandchildren, and generations to come can enjoy and use, if we use them wisely first.

Women and STEM: My Perspective, and My Story

Image of female scientists

Guest blog post by Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

Last week, as the administration and Congress agreed on a debt ceiling deal, those of us in the science world were reminded of another looming deficit: the lack of women with jobs – and education – in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

According to the “Women in STEM” report issued by Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), nearly half of U.S. jobs are filled by women, yet they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This is despite the fact that women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women in other fields.

A country, especially one in the throes of tough economic times, needs all of the skilled brainpower it has to “win the future.”  Science and technological innovation have a key role to play in creating jobs, stimulating a robust economy and creating durable solutions to tough problems.  Women and people of color have more to offer than is currently being tapped.  Since the ESA report focuses on women, I’ll do the same here.

We at NOAA are doing our best to identify, hire, promote and engage talented people. I am surrounded by women in all stages of their careers who are pursuing their passions for science and science policy.

We have a history of distinguished women scientists working at NOAA and continue to actively seek new talent. In addition, women of distinction also fill the uppermost ranks of the NOAA leadership team.

What differentiates NOAA from other science-based institutions, and what attracts budding scientists and students to NOAA? One obvious answer is our mission to create and use cutting-edge science to provide services and stewardship—our weather, climate and ocean science enterprises.

Kids are especially intrigued and excited by weather and climate as “see and feel” phenomena that touch them daily. The same can be said for the ocean, which like space, is a largely unexplored frontier that offers the promise of adventure and discovery.

This is, in fact, what hooked me.

NOAA Hurricane Outlook Indicates an Above-Normal Season

Hurricanes Karl, Igor and Julia

Urges residents in hurricane-prone areas to be prepared

The Atlantic basin is expected to see an above-normal hurricane season this year, according to the seasonal outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center – a division of the National Weather Service.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is predicting the following ranges this year:

  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)

Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Now is the time to get your plan together for what you and your family would do if disaster strikes. Visit ready.gov to learn more and if you’re a small business owner, visit www.ready.gov/business to ensure that your business is prepared for a disaster.

Hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline; strong winds and flooding rainfall often pose a threat across inland areas along with the risk for tornadoes.

Next week, May 22-28, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week. To help prepare residents of hurricane-prone areas, NOAA is unveiling a new set of video and audio public service announcements featuring NOAA hurricane experts and the FEMA administrator that are available in both English and Spanish. These are available at http://www.hurricanes.gov/prepareRelease 

NOAA: All Federal Waters of the Gulf Once Closed to Fishing Due to Spill Now Open

NOAA map: Tuesday, April 19, 2011: The last area in federal waters closed to fishing due to the oil spill reopens (

More than 1,000 square miles opened today

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today reopened to commercial and recreational fishing 1,041 square miles of Gulf waters immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, just east of Louisiana. This is the twelfth and final reopening in federal waters since July 22, and opens all of the areas in Federal waters formerly closed to fishing due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This reopening was announced after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

“I am pleased to announce that all federal waters affected by the spill are now open to all fishing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “I thank fishermen and the public for their patience and FDA for its support and cooperation throughout this process while we worked diligently to ensure the integrity of Gulf seafood.”

NOAA sampled this area between November 11 and November 14, 2010, March 12 and March 16, 2011, and March 28 and April 1, 2011, for potentially affected finfish, including tuna, swordfish, and escolar.  Read more in NOAA press release

Commerce Department to Deploy Economic Assessment Teams to Six Northeast Fishing Ports

The U.S. Commerce Department announced today that economic development assessment teams will deploy next month to conduct a two-day analysis of six Northeast fishing communities. The teams will visit Portland, Maine, Seabrook, N.H., New Bedford, Mass., Gloucester, Mass., Point Judith, R.I., and Montauk, N.Y. The assessment teams will conduct meetings with local leaders to help identify economic development challenges and opportunities facing local industries and communities. 

“The Department of Commerce is committed to supporting a vibrant and profitable fishing industry in the United States. The assessment teams will help communities identify and begin to address the economic difficulties they are facing,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “We know that by rebuilding stocks, we will improve economic conditions for fishermen and coastal communities, but we recognize that transition is difficult. We are committed to help identify proactive solutions during these challenging economic times.”

“Supporting fishermen and fishing communities with economic assessment and planning assistance is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the administration,” said Brian McGowan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “The Northeast economic development assessment teams will play an important role in providing technical expertise to local leaders as they develop strategies to increase economic and job opportunities.”

The goal of the visits is to provide customized technical assistance for fishing communities that experienced  reductions in groundfish fishing revenues in recent years.  The Economic Development Administration (EDA), in partnership with other federal agencies, will meet with local leaders to assess current and emerging economic issues. EDA, with the assistance of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), evaluated economic and fisheries industry data, including groundfish landing revenues and the percentage of groundfish landed at a port relative to the state totals, in order to select ports for the interagency assessments.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary and Administrator for NOAA

Dr. Lubchenco Oversees Seafood Sampling After the Deepwater Horizon Spill

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At NOAA, science underpins all that we do. One reason that I am so proud to serve as the under secretary for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator is the track record of excellent science at our agency, our focus on delivering essential services based on that science, and the Obama Administration’s commitment to making policy and management decisions informed by the best science available.  

When I first met with then President-elect Obama in mid-December 2008, we discussed ways that NOAA could provide America the best climate change science, restore her ocean’s vitality, provide the best possible weather forecasts and disaster warnings, and help our nation transition to more sustainable ways of living. After asking some very perceptive questions, his comment was simply, “Let’s do it!” Now, how refreshing is that?

As NOAA administrator, my responsibilities include promoting and enabling the science of oceans and the atmosphere; using science to provide services to save lives and property and enable the creation of jobs; and using science in our mission to be good stewards of oceans, coasts, the atmosphere and the planet.