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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Updated “Whale Alert” iPad, iPhone app invites public to contribute to protection of West Coast whales

Updated “Whale Alert” iPad, iPhone app invites public to contribute to protection of West Coast whales

Mariners and the public on the U.S. West Coast can now use an iPad™ and iPhone™ to help decrease the risk of injury or death to whales from ship strikes. 

Whale Alert, a free mobile application originally developed in 2012 to help protect endangered right whales on the East Coast, has been updated with new features to provide mariners in the Pacific with the most current information available about whale movements and conservation initiatives. The app uses GPS, Automatic Identification System, Internet and NOAA nautical charts to provide mariners with a single source of information about whale locations and conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity.
 
Slow-moving whales are highly vulnerable to ship strikes, since many of their feeding and migration areas overlap with shipping lanes. In 2007, four blue whales were killed by confirmed or likely ship strike in and around the Santa Barbara Channel. NOAA Fisheries declared this an Unusual Mortality Event. In 2010, five whales (two blue, one humpback and two fin whales) were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast.
 
Whale Alert has been developed by a collaboration of government agencies, academic institutions, non-profit conservation groups and private sector industries, led by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Collaborating organizations include Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University, Cape Cod National Seashore, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, Conserve I.O., Excelerate Energy, EOM Offshore, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Massachusetts Port Authority, NOAA Fisheries, National Park Service, Point Blue Conservation Science, U.S. Coast Guard and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as well as shipping industry representatives.
 
Whale Alert can be downloaded free of charge from Apple’s App Store.

NOAA Ship & National Aquarium Co-Host Star-Spangled Events & Tours

NOAA Ship & National Aquarium Co-Host Star-Spangled Events & Tours

On Sept. 10, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration, joined a parade of tall ships, Navy vessels, and other boats entering Baltimore Harbor as part of the Star-Spangled Spectacular, a week-long festival celebrating the 200th anniversary of the national anthem. 

Okeanos Explorer will be moored next to the National Aquarium through Sept. 16. During that time, the Aquarium and the ship will co-host a range of events, including public tours. 

Star-Spangled Spectacular events also include living history demonstrations, a family fun zone, live musical performances, and food vendors. Public events culminate on Sept. 13, when two concerts will take place, as well as a fireworks display over Fort McHenry and the Baltimore harbor. For more information about NOAA and National Aquarium-hosted events go to http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/about/what-we-do/oer-updates/2014/baltimore-090914.html

The Okeanos Explorer is the only federal vessel assigned to systematically explore the ocean for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. She methodically maps the deep seafloor and conducts several major expeditions each year using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to investigate seafloor habitats. ROV expeditions are live-streamed to the oceanexplorer.noaa.gov website, where anyone can follow along as a virtual explorer. Through telepresence technology, scientists on shore are able to participate remotely in real time, helping aid in discovery and identification of species, geological features, and other deep-sea phenomena. Okeanos Explorer is in port between Legs II and III of her current expedition, Our Deepwater Backyard: Exploring the Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts. The expedition, taking place Sept. 16-Oct. 7, will explore the diverse deep-sea environments just off the Northeast coast—in other words, within a couple of hundred miles of one of the most densely populated areas of the U.S.  This area is home to deep-sea corals, chemosynthetic communities, and unique geological features. Much of the area is unknown and has never been seen by humans. 

 



The Value of Government Weather and Climate Data

Guest blog post by Jane Callen, Economics and Statistics Administration

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects weather and climate data. As we noted in a recent Commerce Department report on the Value of Government Data, the return to society on investment in government meteorological data is large.

For example, one survey found that the overwhelming majority of people said they used weather forecasts and did so an average of 3.8 times per day. That equates to 301 billion forecasts consumed per year!

The study’s authors note that, other than current news events, there is probably no other type of information obtained on such a routine basis from such a variety of sources. Certainly, the researchers say, no other scientific information is accessed so frequently. And while the information is being delivered from an array of sources, most of it directly or indirectly originates from NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). Americans check to learn what is happening in the weather, and we plan our days – and lives – based on this data.

The researchers found a median valuation of weather forecasts per household of $286 per year, which suggests that the aggregate annual valuation of weather forecasts was about $31.5 billion. The sum of all federal spending on meteorological operations and research was $3.4 billion in the same year, and the private sector spent an additional $1.7 billion on weather forecasting, for a total of private and public spending of about $5.1 billion. In other words, the valuation people placed on the weather forecasts they consumed was 6.2 times as high as the total expenditure on producing forecasts. NOAA data is re-packaged and analyzed to produce 15 million weather products, such as air quality alerts, the three, five and ten day extended weather forecast, earthquake reports, and tornado and flash flood warnings. Many end users do not realize that NOAA provides the data they see and hear every day on The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, the radio and in the morning paper.

Travel Journal: There’s No Place Like Nome!

Secretary Pritzker reviewing plans in Nome, Alaska with Joy Baker, Col. Christopher Lestochi and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

Last week, I embarked on my first trip as Commerce Secretary to Alaska to see how the Last Frontier directly contributes to our economy, and how the U.S. Department of Commerce can help further support Alaskan communities.

The Arctic’s importance to the Nation continues to grow as the impact of global climate change and loss of sea ice make the region much more accessible. This accessibility has inspired strong interest for new commercial initiatives in the region, including energy production, increased shipping, scientific research, tourism, and related infrastructure development. Last year, the Obama Administration introduced  the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, not only in recognition of the growing interest in and vulnerability of the region, but also to prioritize and integrate efforts across the Federal government to explore emerging opportunities – while simultaneously exploring efforts to protect and conserve this pristine environment.

During my trip, I explored the city of Nome, which is located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the northwest side of the 49th state. Once a gold mining town, Nome is one of the most remote communities in Alaska, with a population of 3,500.

My first stop was the Port of Nome. Joy Baker, Special Projects Director and former Harbormaster of the City of Nome, led me and my staff on a tour and described the economic impact and infrastructure challenges associated with increased Arctic shipping.  Although originally from San Antonio, Texas,  Joy has worked for the City of Nome for almost 25 years. Her passion for the city was obvious, and she explained how satisfying it was to see the expansion and development of the facility as the successful end result of many years of work and input about additional infrastructure needs in Nome.

After the port tour, we saw U.S. Arctic port infrastructure and vessels, ranging from small gold dredges to industry ships, giving us a better understanding of how the Department of Commerce’s work in implementing the Community Development Quota program in 1992 has been able to grow and further support economic development and achieve sustainable and diversified local economies in the region.

Having enjoyed the outdoors, we moved inside for a roundtable focused on new economic opportunities that are emerging as the impacts of climate change are felt in the Arctic region, including maritime transportation, fishing, and oil and gas activities. Various Alaska Native corporations, industries, and local, state, and federal officials offered a variety of perspectives which gave me a better sense of how the Department of Commerce can further our efforts to support the region.

We wrapped up the day with another productive and engaging roundtable centered on the threats from climate change, which are already impacting some Alaskan communities. These threats include exacerbated erosion and inundation frequency; and the shrinking of sea ice habitat affecting marine mammals.

While we face these challenges, my hope is that the Department can continue to do its part to facilitate trade and investment, assist with the development and management of natural resources, and provide the data and environmental intelligence that are critical to the safety and prosperity of individuals, communities and businesses that are dealing with a changing environment.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Alaska, and I look forward to strengthening our partnerships in Alaska and across the Arctic region in the coming months and years.

Commerce and NOAA Data Provide Critical Environmental Intelligence to Alaska

Secretary Pritkzer and NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan  visited the Alaska Weather, Water and Ice Center which is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) main operations center in Anchorage, Alaska

From supplying daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring, to managing fisheries management, supporting coastal restoration and promoting marine commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) products and services are critical to the country’s economic vitality. NOAA maintains a presence in every state, and has a particularly robust team in Alaska.

Secretary Pritzker visited Anchorage this week to see first-hand how Commerce helps Alaska stay “open for business” by supplying the environmental intelligence that citizens, planners, emergency managers and other decision makers rely on. Secretary Pritzker was joined by NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan on her first trip to Alaska.

Unlocking more of the Department of Commerce’s vast stores of data is one of the key pillars of the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda." In Alaska, the Department's data is critical to the safety and prosperity of individuals, communities and businesses that are dealing with a changing environment.

Secretary Pritzker and Dr. Sullivan visited the Alaska Weather, Water and Ice Center which is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) main operations center in Anchorage. The Center is also among the largest consolidated NWS operations centers in the country, containing four specialized operational units: the Weather Forecast Office including the Sea Ice desk; the Alaska Pacific River Forecast Center; the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center. No other forecasting operation is positioned to deliver such integrated information services – from marine weather and sea ice to hydrology to public and aviation forecasts – making it incredibly beneficial to Alaskan and Arctic decision makers.

In addition to the NWS Center and various forecast offices, NOAA facilities in the state include four marine laboratories, an atmospheric observatory, and a satellite command data acquisition station.

Later in the day, Secretary Pritzker and Dr. Sullivan met with about 75 NOAA employees to learn more about their work and thank them for their service. NOAA team members had the opportunity to provide their perspectives and discuss Alaska-specific issues.

Examples of Commerce data and research in Alaska include the following:

  • NOAA’s fisheries research and management programs, which are both vital to promoting sustainable use and conservation in light of a changing climate. Fishing is a $5.8 billion industry in Alaska, and supports 100,000 jobs. Fishery-related tourism also brings in more than $300 million annually for the state;
  • NOAA’s sea ice research which strengthens the forecasts of both ice and weather conditions, and helps build a better understanding of the direct links between sea ice and climate change;
  • NOAA essential decision support services that provide regional decision makers with forecasts and warnings for events like extratropical storms, tsunamis, floods, droughts, and volcanic ash;
  • Important NOAA services like mapping and charting, for coastal communities which improves safe Arctic maritime access and prepares communities for intensifying weather.     

Secretary Pritzker: Commerce Department Helps Keep Alaska Open for Business

Secretary Pritzker meeting with CEOs representing the Alaska Native Corporations

The Department of Commerce is focused on creating the conditions for businesses to grow, hire, and strengthen the economy in all 50 states. This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is in Alaska to showcase how the Department keeps the Last Frontier open for business.

Secretary Pritzker met with business leaders in Anchorage this morning to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the business community in the state and resources for Alaska businesses that are looking to grow. Among the roundtable participants were representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, as well as the transportation, logistics, and travel and tourism industries.

During their conversation, they discussed workforce development challenges, the need for infrastructure development to seize the economic opportunities of a changing Arctic, and the importance of making it easier  for visitors to enter the United States. With more than 1.9 million visitors during fiscal year 2014, Alaska’s expanding travel and tourism industry is critical to economic growth and job creation in the state.

She also highlighted the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda,” of which trade and investment is a key pillar. Alaska’s merchandise exports have grown from about $3.2 billion in 2009 to $4.5 billion in 2013, but the Commerce Department wants to help Alaska reach even more international buyers. Secretary Pritzker announced that the Commerce Department is getting ready to reopen the U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Alaska in the coming weeks. USEACs around the country connect U.S. companies with international buyers, provide them with market intelligence and trade counseling, and facilitate business matchmaking and commercial diplomacy support.

NOAA-U.S. Coast Guard Exercise Aims to Improve U.S. Response, Capabilities to Deal with Future Contingencies in the Arctic

NOAA-U.S. Coast Guard Exercise Aims to Improve U.S. Response, Capabilities to Deal with Future Contingencies in the Arctic

As multi-year sea ice continues to disappear at a rapid rate, vessel traffic in the Arctic is on the rise. This is leading to new maritime concerns, especially in areas increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges, and fishing vessels. Keeping all of this new ocean traffic moving smoothly is a growing concern for safety's sake. It's also important to the U.S. economy, environment, and national security. But what happens if there’s a major incident such as an oil spill in this remote region?

This month, researchers from NOAA’s National Ocean Service and NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program are taking part in an Arctic exercise aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy that is part of an annual effort to ensure the Arctic remains a safe, secure, and environmentally protected region.

During the month-long ‘Arctic Shield’ mission, the USCG’s Research and Development Center will simulate an oil spill once the Healy makes it far enough north to test technologies at the ice edge.  The team will test a variety of technologies, including unmanned airborne and underwater sensing platforms.

The NOAA components of this exercise focus on testing technologies to improve oil spill reconnaissance and mapping to enable faster and safer decision-making while operating from a ship—a likely platform for responding to a spill in the Arctic due to lack of infrastructure and accommodations.

NOAA and Partners Provide Real-time Information to Keep Economic Activity Flowing in Port of Jacksonville

The air gap sensor installed on the Dames Point Bridge in Jacksonville, Fla., ensured that Carnival Cruise Lines could continue serving the Port of Jacksonville while the bridge was undergoing repairs. According to a 2009 study completed by Martin Associates, the cruise industry generates more than $67 million in annual economic impact for Northeast Florida.

Our country’s port system is an essential driver of the U.S. economy and for connecting us to the rest of the world.  Every day, U.S. ports and waterways handle millions of tons of domestic and international cargo ranging from agricultural products to heating oil and automobiles.

As demand for U.S. goods and services increases, U.S. ports are responding by implementing innovative technologies. Today, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its local partner, the Jacksonville Marine Transportation Exchange, dedicated the newest Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or PORTS®, in the country.  

Part of NOAA’s network of observational platforms, PORTS® puts real-time, actionable information, or environmental intelligence, into the hands of people who need it to make informed decisions.

The new Jacksonville PORTS®, the second largest ever established in the system, includes a broad suite of operational sensors with water level, meteorological, visibility, salinity, air gap (under bridge clearance), and tidal currents. These sensors are the new “eyes” for the Port of Jacksonville giving 20/20 vision to port operators, ship captains, shipping companies, and others. Jacksonville PORTS® will provide mariners with better maritime information about currents and water levels so they can navigate more efficiently and safely.

PORTS®, combined with up-to-date nautical charts and precise positioning information, can provide mariners with a clearer picture of the potential dangers in the water.  In addition, as ships increase in size and carry more cargo, PORTS® provides shipping companies with information to ensure they safely enter and exit our ports.

Guidance Aims to Improve Community Resilience to Coastal Hazards

A view of the Pacific coastline along Santa Monica, California

Do you live on or near the coast? According to the latest population data, more than 39 percent of Americans lived in coastal shoreline counties and the number is growing. America’s coasts stretch along more than 95,000 miles. One downside to living along the coast is that climate change increasing many natural hazards, such as erosion, harmful algal blooms, big storms, flooding, tsunamis, and sea level rise.

Investing in infrastructure has never been more important. In addition to the clear economic benefits of building a world-class infrastructure system, the third National Climate Assessment NOAA released earlier this year confirms that the impacts of climate change are already taking a toll on our communities. To help communities withstand impacts from more extreme weather and increased flooding, President Obama announced a series of actions to respond to the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience’s feedback to help state, local, and tribal leaders prepare their communities for the impacts of climate change by developing more resilient infrastructure and rebuilding existing infrastructure stronger and smarter.

President Obama’s focus remains on building on the progress America’s economy is making by helping businesses create jobs and expanding opportunity for all hardworking Americans. As part of those efforts, the President recently put forward a comprehensive plan to invest in America’s infrastructure in order to create jobs, provide certainty to states and communities, support American businesses, and grow our economy.

In 2011, 45 percent of our nation’s GDP – or $6.6 trillion – was generated in coastal and Great Lakes counties, supporting approximately 51 million jobs and $2.8 trillion in wages. Close to three million jobs directly depend on the resources of the oceans and Great Lakes. If the nation’s coastal watershed counties were an individual country, they would rank third in GDP globally behind the U.S. as a whole and China.It's no secret why so many of us choose to live in coastal regions. These are areas of great bounty and beauty.

Improving Resilience by Building a Weather-Ready Nation

NOAA GOES East image of Hurricane Katrina, August 2005

NOAA's mission of reducing loss of life, property, and the disruption from high impact weather and water-related events has existed since its inception.  However, in recent years the significant societal impacts resulting even from well forecast extreme events have shifted the attention toward better decision support services for communities, businesses, and the public -- decisions ranging from years in advance such as coastal community planning to mitigate impacts from rising sea level, to farmers minimizing impacts from drought heading into growing season, to immediate lifesaving decisions such as a family seeking adequate shelter after their NOAA Weather Radio alerts them to a tornado warning.  

To this end, NOAA is committed to building a "Weather-Ready Nation" where society is prepared for and responds appropriately to these events. The Weather-Ready Nation strategic priority is about building community resilience in the face of increasing vulnerability to extreme weather, water, climate, and environmental threats.  NOAA also recognizes it is essential to work collaboratively with external stakeholders across all levels of government, industry, nonprofits, and academia.  In February, 2014, NOAA launched the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative to recognize organizations committed to working with NOAA and contributing to a Weather-Ready Nation.

What can you do?

  • Know your risk: Hurricanes, droughts, tornadoes, snowstorms, flooding – severe weather impacts every part of the country. The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. 
  • Take action: Be Force of Nature by making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. This includes creating a disaster supplies kit and making sure that you can receive emergency messages.
  • Be an example: Be a positive influence on your community by sharing your weather preparedness story. Be a Force of Nature by letting your friends and family know what you did to become weather-ready.