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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

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.

Deputy Secretary Andrews Emphasizes How National Weather Service Employees’ Work is Central to the Department’s Mission

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews meets with NWS researchers and tours the Aviation Weather Center

Deputy Commerce Secretary Bruce Andrews traveled to Kansas City, MO, yesterday to meet with National Weather Service (NWS) employees and talk about how important their work is to both help American businesses and save lives and property.

Speaking at the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) Conference, Deputy Secretary Andrews talked about businesses that have used NWS data. For example, Dunkin Donuts uses weather information to plan their inventory. Their franchises use weather data to predict how much coffee will be sold and to better inform both day-to-day planning and where to close down stores in advance of an extreme weather event.

Hotel booking services use NWS guidance to help them know where to expect a surge of last minute bookings from stranded travelers. Major retailers like Home Depot, Walmart, and Target rely on data and information to manage their inventory and quickly adjust their stock in stores around the country.

The two industries that rely on NWS employees and the services and products they provide more than any other are the agriculture industry and the airline industry. These industries survive or thrive on the back of forecasts, preventing ruined crops and lost travel days. The work NWS has done to provide increasingly accurate and more sophisticated weather forecasts saves money for both of these industries.

While touring the NWS Regional Headquarters in Kansas City, Deputy Secretary Andrews learned more about the day-to-day work of NWS employees. He met with some of the researchers and other employees who work at the Aviation Weather Center, the National Weather Service Training Center, and the Operations Proving Ground housed there.

Commerce Data: Then & Now

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

In July, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced that our department will be hiring our first ever Chief Data Officer (CDO), building on her commitment to Commerce’s role as “America’s Data Agency.” She also announced the formation of a data advisory council comprising private sector leaders who will help the CDO navigate new and dynamic data challenges. This is the latest chapter in Commerce’s long history of adapting to serve the needs of an ever-changing American economy.

The United States Department of Commerce has been a trusted provider of data and statistics for centuries. The first decennial census took place in 1790 and the first patent was issued that same year.  Today, because of advances in technology, we are able to provide Americans with more data, faster and more accurately than ever before. This transformation can be seen in the evolution of the Census Bureau.

Article 1 Section 3 of the US Constitution states that the U.S. government shall enumerate the population of the United States every 10 years. Beginning with the 1790 Decennial Census and once every decade since then, the federal government has provided this invaluable information, making the United States the first country to produce a regular count of its citizens.   

By the early 1800s it became clear that in addition to the important demographic information flowing from the decennial census, there was also an imperative for regular collection of business information. In response to that need, in 1810, the U.S. Census Bureau established a census of businesses, also known as the economic census.  The initial focal points were manufacturing, lumber yards and butcher shops. In 1902, Congress authorized the establishment of the U.S. Census Bureau and directed that the census of manufacturers be taken every five years (a “quinquennial” census).  As the economy grew, the Census Bureau responded accordingly and by 1930 it had expanded the economic census to include services.  The breadth of the survey has since changed to keep pace with our nation’s growing economy.  The 2012 economic census data are currently being released.

Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources

Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources Graphic

Guest Blog Post by Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D.,Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

Our societal well-being is linked to a healthy, productive, and resilient environment. However, many of our nation’s treasured landscapes and iconic species are fundamentally changing due to the effects of a changing climate.

For example, many fish, wildlife and plant species are shifting northward and into higher elevations or deeper water as temperatures increase. Increasing ocean temperature and acidity in our oceans are altering local food webs and disrupting historic fisheries. Sea level rise is decreasing the extent of coastal wetlands and coral reefs. And the disappearance of ice in the northern latitudes is forever changing the habitats where whales, seals, polar bears, and walruses live and feed. 

Conservation is a critical strategy for promoting resilience among our nation’s fish, wildlife and plants – including humans – as our planet continues to change.

A new White House Fact Sheet and report released yesterday, the Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources lays the path of conservation planning in the face of climate change. 

Protecting our country’s natural resources also benefits communities and economies.  Healthy and resilient ecosystems play an important role in “buffering” the effects of extreme weather on our communities, providing us food and clean water, and helping to mitigate the impacts of carbon pollution by serving as “sinks” that sequester and store carbon.  Additionally, energy generation, agriculture, and tourism, and many more sectors of our economy rely on the availability of natural resources, underscoring the essential need for conservation as a critical resilience and adaptation strategy. 

The Priority Agenda is one part of an ongoing strategy to implement the President’s Climate Action Plan, and make the nation better prepared for the impacts of climate change. The Agenda builds upon the robust climate change adaptation work already underway by federal agencies, including NOAA, and identifies significant actions moving forward.