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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Spotlight on Commerce: Michelle A. Crockett, National Program Manager EEO and Diversity, NOAA National Ocean Service

Spotlight on Commerce: Michelle A. Crockett, National Program Manager EEO and Diversity, NOAA National Ocean Service

As National Program Manager for Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service (NOS) I serve as the principal advisor to the Assistant Administrator, Deputy Assistant Administrator and other senior management in fostering the principles and practices of NOS’ Diversity Program, and its Equal Employment Office (EEO) Program, and to assure compliance with affirmative action laws and regulations.  I formulate, develop, recommend, and implement policy, procedures and programs in collaboration with NOS Program and Staff office representatives.  I am responsible for planning, developing, and implementing NOS EEO program and diversity activities, which includes; coordinating all phases of policy analysis, planning, implementation and communications to support NOS EEO and diversity management initiatives. The most important function of my position is I have the opportunity to work with both managers and employees to seek resolution for conflict occurring in the workplace. 

My life has been shaped from experiences I had growing up in the small southern town of LaGrange, GA.  My parents instilled in me the importance of a strong work ethic and education, cultivated in a faith centered home. My parents experienced discrimination and they were always aware of its existence, but they would never allow me to use it as an excuse for not working hard to achieve success. My father’s favorite quote was, “hard work is its own reward” and I have to agree that these words have served as the catalysis for my success.  I received my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration for Georgia Southwestern University and my Certification in Equal Employment Opportunities Studies from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University. 

I began my federal career within the Department of Defense, Defense Commissary Agency as an Accounting Specialist, but my true passion for equal rights and opportunities lead me to my position here at NOS.  It may sound like a cliché but I truly love my job.  No two days are the same and every day I have the ability to foster and generate a greater awareness for organizational diversity.  People are diverse in many ways.  We all have a number of differences that offer substantial opportunities and possibilities to make organizations successful and our world a better place.  When we accept our differences and learn to work with them, we enrich our lives and improve the creativity and productivity of the organization.  Hence, when we are able to fully embrace and implement an effective diversity strategy whereby everyone feels validated the need for enforcement policies are diminished. 

NOAA Launches New Deep Space Solar Monitoring Satellite

NOAA Launches New Deep Space Solar Monitoring Satellite

NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, last night at 6:03 p.m. EST on its way to an orbit one million miles from Earth. DSCOVR will give NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) forecasters more reliable measurements of solar wind conditions, improving their ability to monitor potentially harmful solar activity.

When it reaches its final destination about 110 days from now, and after it completes a series of initialization checks, DSCOVR will be the nation’s first operational satellite in deep space, orbiting between Earth and the Sun at a point called the Lagrange point, or L1. It will take its place at L1 alongside NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) research satellite, replacing the 17-year old ACE as America’s primary warning system for solar magnetic storms headed towards Earth. Meanwhile, ACE will continue its important role in space weather research. 

Data from DSCOVR, coupled with a new forecast model that is set to come online later this year, will enable NOAA forecasters to predict geomagnetic storm magnitude on a regional basis. Geomagnetic storms occur when plasma and magnetic fields streaming from the sun impact Earth’s magnetic field. Large magnetic eruptions from the sun have the potential to bring major disruptions to power grids, aviation, telecommunications, and GPS systems. 

According to the National Academies of Sciences, a major solar storm has the potential to cost upwards of $2 trillion, disrupting telecommunications, GPS systems, and the energy grid.  As the nation’s space weather prediction agency, when DSCOVR is fully operational and our new space weather forecast models are in place, we will be able to provide vital information to industries and communities to help them prepare for these storms.

NOAA Identifies Six Nations Engaging in Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

Worldwide economic losses from IUU fishing from ships such as this are estimated to be between $10 billion and $23 billion annually. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, and NOAA’s administrator at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orleans released a new NOAA report that identified six nations -- Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Portugal -- as engaging in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).  IUU fishing and seafood fraud undermine international efforts to sustainably manage and rebuild fisheries, and creates unfair market competition for fishermen playing by the rules, like those in the United States. The findings are part of the 2015 biennial report to Congress. 

The SeaWeb Seafood Summit brings together global representatives from the seafood industry with leaders from the conservation community, academia, government, and the media for in-depth discussions, presentations, and networking around the issue of sustainable seafood. The goal of the Summit is to foster dialogue and partnerships that lead to a seafood marketplace that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. 

Protecting the country’s reputation as a leader in sustainable fishing is at the heart of President Obama’s efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud around the world.  The report also highlights U.S. findings and analyses of foreign IUU fishing activities and of bycatch of protected species and shark catch on the high seas where nations do not have a regulatory program comparable to the United States.  

In addition to undermining international fisheries efforts, IUU fishing can also devastate fish populations and their productive marine habitats, threatening global food security and economic stability. Global losses attributable to IUU fishing have been estimated to be between $10 billion and $23 billion annually, undermining the ability to sustainably manage fisheries as well as economic opportunities for U.S. fishermen.   

The report is a requirement of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, as amended by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act and the Shark Conservation Act. 

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and our other social media channels.

Commerce Efforts Featured Prominently in President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Last night, the American people heard President Obama deliver a strong and clear message in his State of the Union address: that America’s resurgence is real. In his sixth address to Congress, he noted  that the economy is in the best shape since before the Great Recession. Thanks to the hard work of America’s businesses and workers – and the tough decisions made by the Administration the economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. The unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis, GDP is rising, exports are at a record high and the United States is outpacing its competitors across the globe. That news is to be celebrated, but there is more work to be done. The task now is to build on this foundation of progress; to continue a sustainable, real and lasting recovery for all Americans. 

To ensure that America continues to be the number one economy in the world, the President outlined a strong trade agenda. Pursuing new trade agreements is essential to creating more jobs, strengthening our competitiveness, and spurring our prosperity. 95 percent of the world’s consumers live beyond the U.S.’s borders, an opportunity that no company would or should ignore. With new trade agreements, new markets will be opened to U.S. products, helping U.S. businesses reach more customers. In today’s global economy, the country’s prosperity is directly tied to our ability to reach new markets and consumers beyond our borders.
 
Being able to meet the needs of millions of new customers requires the United States continue to invest in advanced manufacturing. After a decade of decline, the manufacturing sector is adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s and poised for increased growth in the years ahead. President Obama announced he will build on recent bipartisan legislation to strengthen manufacturing by expanding on the eight National Network for Manufacturing Innovation Institutes already created to complete 15 Institutes by the end of his term. That puts the United States on pace for 45 institutes in the next decade. The President also highlighted a new $10 billion public-private American Made Scale-Up Fund for manufacturing start-ups, ensuring that what is invented in America can be made in America.
 

NOAA Announces Significant Investment in Next Generation of Supercomputers

NOAA Announces Significant Investment in Next Generation of Supercomputers

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced the next phase in the agency’s efforts to increase supercomputing capacity to provide more timely, accurate, reliable, and detailed forecasts. By October 2015, the capacity of each of NOAA’s two operational supercomputers will jump to 2.5 petaflops, for a total of 5 petaflops – a nearly tenfold increase from the current capacity.

Ahead of this upgrade, each of the two operational supercomputers will first more than triple their current capacity later this month (to at least 0.776 petaflops for a total capacity of 1.552 petaflops). With this larger capacity, NOAA’s National Weather Service in January will begin running an upgraded version of the Global Forecast System (GFS) with greater resolution that extends further out in time – the new GFS will increase resolution from 27km to 13km out to 10 days and 55km to 33km for 11 to 16 days. In addition, the Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) will be upgraded by increasing the number of vertical levels from 42 to 64 and increasing the horizontal resolution from 55km to 27km out to eight days and 70km to 33km from days nine to 16.

Computing capacity upgrades scheduled for this month and later this year are part of ongoing computing and modeling upgrades that began in July 2013. NOAA’s National Weather Service has upgraded existing models – such as the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model, which did exceptionally well this hurricane season, including for Hurricane Arthur which struck North Carolina. And NOAA’s National Weather Service has operationalized the widely acclaimed High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model, which delivers 15-hour numerical forecasts every hour of the day.

The increase in supercomputing capacity comes via a $44.5 million investment using NOAA's operational high performance computing contract with IBM, $25 million of which was provided through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy. Cray Inc., headquartered in Seattle, plans to serve as a subcontractor for IBM to provide the new systems to NOAA.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels. Visit our news release archive. 

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.

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. 

NOAA: Atlantic Hurricane Season Stays Quiet as Predicted

NOAA: Atlantic Hurricane Season Stays Quiet as Predicted

The Atlantic hurricane season will officially end November 30, and will be remembered as a relatively quiet season as was predicted. Still, the season afforded NOAA scientists with opportunities to produce new forecast products, showcase successful modeling advancements, and conduct research to benefit future forecasts. 

“Fortunately, much of the U.S. coastline was spared this year with only one landfalling hurricane along the East Coast. Nevertheless, we know that’s not always going to be the case,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “The ‘off season’ between now and the start of next year’s hurricane season is the best time for communities to refine their response plans and for businesses and individuals to make sure they’re prepared for any potential storm.” 

Some of the new and experimental products and services and research opportunities this year included: 

  • The upgrade of the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model in June with increased vertical resolution and improved physics 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.
  • In 2014, NOAA's National Hurricane Center introduced an experimental five-day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook to accompany its text product for both the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific basins. The new graphics indicate the likelihood of development and the potential formation areas of new tropical cyclones during the next five days.
  • NHC 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 highlights those geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur and the height above ground that the water could reach. 

Remembering a Little Known Oil Spill with Out-Sized Impacts

Remembering a Little Known Oil Spill with Out-Sized Impacts

Ten years ago, there was an oil spill that you’ve probably never heard of. The spill wasn’t as large as the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, and it didn’t occur in an environment as pristine as Prince William Sound which was affected by the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989. But this event had a significant impact on future oil spill response, restoration and maritime accident prevention. 

Just outside of Philadelphia on November 26, 2004, an oil tanker called the Athos I unknowingly ripped its hull on an 18,000 pound anchor hidden on the river bottom. This released more than 263,000 gallons of heavy oil into an industrialized stretch of the Delaware River. That accident set into motion a coordinated federal, state and local response with NOAA playing a significant role providing scientific support to the responding agencies and the eventual restoration of the damaged coastline. 

Every oil spill has impacts and this one, despite being a fraction of the Deepwater Horizon release, severely affected the region’s economy and environment. Commercial traffic on this active shipping route was halted for more than a week, delaying over two hundred vessels. Claims paid to affected businesses topped $162.6 million. 

The nearby Salem Nuclear Power Plant was also affected. Because some oil sank to the river bottom it had the potential of clogging the power plant’s critical cooling water intake system. This required operators to shut down two reactors for 11 days, at a cost of $33.1 million. Scientists at NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration were instrumental in estimating when the river was safe for the power plant to restart operations. 

The Athos incident also caused serious environmental effects. Almost 12,000 birds died as a result of the spill. Spilled oil washed up on 280 miles of shoreline, which included sensitive marshes, beaches, and mudflats. In addition, the spill affected nearly 42,000 recreational boating and fishing trips along the river. 

NOAA’s Damage Assessment, Remediation, and Restoration Program, along with state and federal partners, tallied up environmental and recreational impacts and, in 2010, received $27.5 million from the National Pollution Funds Center. This money is being used for 10 restoration projects to benefit coastal communities and natural resources affected by the Athos oil spill. These projects are creating habitat for fish and wildlife, providing public access for recreation, increasing boater safety, and enhancing flood protection. To date, five projects have been completed, restoring 131 acres out of an eventual 332 acres of habitat. 

Two Years after Sandy Landfall, Commerce Continues to Help Affected Communities

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

In the two years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, the Department of Commerce, through its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Census Bureau, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been working to help communities recover and enhance resiliency in the face of future storms.

Hours after the storm hit, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey began aerial survey missions to assess storm damage. In total, 1649 miles of coastline were documented. The photos taken on these missions provided emergency and coastal managers with the information they needed to develop recovery strategies, facilitate search-and-rescue efforts, identify hazards to navigation and HAZMAT spills, locate errant vessels, and provide documentation home and business owners needed to assess damages to property. To date, FEMA has used the NOAA-supplied photos, as well as those from the Civil Air Patrol, to determine damage to 35,000 homes.

Following a major disaster like Sandy, one of EDA’s key roles is to lead the Economic Recovery Support Function on behalf of the Department of Commerce. After the hurricane struck, EDA joined with several other federal agencies to deploy staff to help hard-hit communities throughout the region. EDA team members worked with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, economic development partners, and the affected communities to identify long-term strategies that aim to help the communities restore their local economies, expedite recovery, and minimize economic losses.