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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

NOAA Predicts Near-Normal or Below-Normal 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season

2014 Atlantic hurricane outlook

In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season.

The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer. El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.  For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

“Thanks to the environmental intelligence from NOAA’s network of earth observations, our scientists and meteorologists can provide life-saving products like our new storm surge threat map and our hurricane forecasts,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one land falling storm to cause a disaster.”

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

This week, NOAA hurricane experts will visit five U.S. Gulf Coast cities aboard a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft to raise awareness about storm threats and the danger of being caught without a personal hurricane plan. The five-day tour begins today and advances NOAA's efforts to build a Weather-Ready Nation through outreach and effective communication on the steps necessary to prepare for a hurricane. 

National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb, along with senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown and storm surge team leader Jamie Rhome, will travel with the NOAA crew when the aircraft visits Corpus Christi, Tex.; Houston, Tex.; New Orleans, La.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Tampa, Fla. 

The hurricane hunter aircraft, also known as the NOAA WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft, is used primarily by scientists on research missions to study various elements of a hurricane, flying through the eye of the storm several times each flight. The crew collects and transmits data by satellite directly to the National Hurricane Center so that forecasters can analyze and predict changes to the hurricane’s path and strength.  

The aircraft is part of our fleet of highly specialized research aircraft operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The aircraft is piloted by officers of the NOAA Corps — one of the seven uniformed services of the United States — and based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. 

Staff from local emergency management offices and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and several local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices will be part of the team at each stop. 

NOAA Provides Environmental Intelligence to Keep Goods Moving Along Our Marine Highways

Today's massive ships push the depth limit of many ports and harbors. NOAA tools —such as nautical charts, accurate positioning services, and ocean and weather observations—play a key role in ensuring that shipments move swiftly and safely along our marine highways.

By weight, 75 percent of U.S. international trade moves through the nation’s ports and harbors. Those ports support, directly and indirectly, more than 13 million American jobs.

NOAA provides environmental intelligence to support safe, efficient, and environmentally sound navigation through U.S. ports. NOAA produces the nation’s nautical charts, which provide essential navigation information such as water depths; locations of dangers to navigation; locations and characteristics of aids to navigation; anchorages; and other features.

NOAA also integrates ocean and coastal observations, data, science, and services to provide actionable information, thereby improving informed choices.  Good decisions today protect lives and property tomorrow.

The agency monitors, assesses, and distributes tide, current, and water level products and services. Positioning information from NOAA provides a highly accurate, precise, and consistent  framework to help mariners safely navigate around obstructions in our nation's busy waterways.

NOAA’s role warning coastal areas of hurricane threats is well known, but the agency also plays a significant role after the storm.  NOAA moves quickly to help reopen ports. Navigation response teams survey ports and channels, searching for submerged debris and other dangers to navigation. NOAA aerial photography helps the public, decision makers, and insurance adjusters assess the extent of storm damage.

In addition, NOAA's Physical Oceanographic Real-time System (PORTS®) provides accurate real-time oceanographic information, tailored to the specific needs of local maritime communities. Knowledge of the currents, water levels, winds, and density of the water can increase the amount of cargo moved through a port and harbor by enabling mariners to safely utilize every inch of dredged channel depth. For example, an economic study showed that the Tampa Bay economy receives more than $7 million a year in savings and direct income from PORTS®. A second study calculated $16 million a year in savings for the Houston-Galveston region. 

Learn more at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/navigation/marinenav/

National Climate Assessment Underscores Urgent Need for Americans and Our Businesses to Prepare for Climate Change in the United States

Cover of the third U.S. National Climate Assessment report

Guest Blog Post by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

The effects of climate change on our planet are becoming more evident, and its impact on our communities, and key sectors of the economy, is becoming more profound.

As part of its overall efforts to provide scientific information about climate change, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment. This report – a key deliverable of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan – is a comprehensive, authoritative scientific assessment about climate changes that are happening now in the U.S. and further changes that we can expect to see throughout this century.

The report communicates the impacts of climate change according to geographic region of the U.S., and by economic and societal sector—including agriculture, energy, and health. These tailored findings help translate scientific insights into practical, useable knowledge that can help decision-makers and citizens anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.

Among the 12 key findings, the report concludes that evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country. Over the next 100 years, we can expect these impacts to further increase unless the global emissions of heat-trapping greenhouses gases are stabilized or reduced. 

While these findings are indeed sobering and provide real-cause for concern, there is also reason for hope. Ultimately, the amount of climate change, severity of impacts, and how we will prepare for those impacts will be largely be determined by the decisions we make today. 

NOAA Invites Citizens to “Come Visit Us” at the Coastal and Ocean Places It Helps Protect

Come Visit Us - kayak alongside a river bank

Conserving coastal places provides economic benefits to local communities. For example, across all national marine sanctuaries, about $4 billion annually is generated in local coastal and ocean-dependent economies from diverse activities like commercial fishing, research and recreation-tourist activities. NOAA’s National Ocean Service works to conserve marine areas — and preserve the economic benefits of these special places to local communities — through coastal management and place-based conservation programs such as the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, National Marine Sanctuaries, and the Coral Reef Conservation Program.

From May 5-9, NOAA’s National Ocean Service will celebrate these special coastal and marine places in conjunction with National Travel and Tourism Week. Their online campaign, Come Visit Us, highlights a variety of coastal and marine places that the National Ocean Service helps to protect, including

  • 28 national estuarine research reserves (1.3 million coastal and estuarine acres)
  • 13 national marine sanctuaries and 1 national marine monument (170,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters)
  • coral reefs and marine protected areas in U.S. coastal waters

The campaign will include ocean facts, an audio podcast, videos, and even a guide to diving in our sanctuaries and reserves. And for those who can’t travel to our ocean and coasts in the near future, this visual campaign will help them virtually experience the coastal and marine places that NOAA strives to protect. Conserving these special places today is critical to ensuring future generations can enjoy and benefit from these valuable ocean and coastal resources tomorrow.

You can follow Come Visit Us on the NOAA Ocean Service Facebook or Twitter pages.

Fishing’s Impacts Ripple across the Broader Economy

1.7 million jobs supported by U.S. commercial and recreational fishing industries in 2012

Guest blog post by Eileen Sobeck, NOAA’s Assistant Administrator for Fisheries

Fishing is big business in the United States. From commercial fisheries to recreational and charter boat business owners, fishing contributes to the United States’ economy and supports jobs. According to new reports issued today by NOAA Fisheries, we continue to see positive economic impacts from commercial and recreational U.S. fisheries as well as progress in rebuilding our nation’s fish stocks.

Between 2011 and 2012 alone, U.S. commercial and recreational saltwater fishing generated more than $199 billion in sales impacts, contributed $89 billion to gross domestic product, and supported 1.7 million jobs.

Breaking down the numbers a little more, the value chain of the commercial fishing industry—harvesters, processors, dealers, wholesalers, and retailers—generated $141 billion in sales, $39 billion in income and supported 1.3 million jobs in 2012.

The recreational fishing sector generated $58 billion in sales, $19 billion in income, and supported 381,000 jobs in 2012.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The United States is a world leader in responsibly managed fisheries, and there’s no doubt that our approach to management is directly tied to the positive economic impacts across the broader U.S. economy in the last few years as we see in the Fisheries Economics of the U.S. 2012 report.

US Postal Service unveils new Earth Day stamp celebrating NOAA Climate Science

Global: Sea Surface Temperatures Forever® Stamp (credit USPS)

This morning, the U.S. Postal Service celebrated Earth Day by unveiling a new Forever international rate stamp inspired by a simulation of sea surface temperatures from a NOAA model of the Earth’s climate. The round stamp depicts the globe with North America in the center, surrounded by vivid bands of blue, green and red, signifying the varying temperatures of sea surface waters.

"This stamp is a fabulous tribute to the NOAA scientists and partners who develop models that help us understand changes in our climate and weather," said
Mark Schaefer, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management and NOAA deputy administrator. "These global models are key to understanding changes in our dynamic planet over both the short- and long-term, and they are major sources of the environmental intelligence NOAA provides each day.  Armed with this kind of information, decision makers can help communities plan for and take action to become more resilient in the face of Earth's changing climate."

The image was chosen through the Postal Service’s public process that begins with suggestions from citizens to the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee.

“Our citizen stamp advisory committee looks to the public for stamp subjects that celebrate people, ideas and events that are important to American history and culture,” said Joshua Colin, Eastern Area vice president for the U.S. Postal Service. “This year’s Earth Day stamp celebrates the important role that science is playing in our understanding of the Earth, the oceans and our climate.”

Several months ago, Postal Service representatives contacted scientists at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., to ask about a sea surface temperature animation on NOAA’s Science On a Sphere website. The sea surface temperature image came from NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., where teams of scientists have been modeling the behavior of the oceans and atmosphere since the 1960s.

The Mysteries of the Gulf of Mexico: Brought to You by NOAA

Towards the end of the first dive, we found a carbonate outcrop inhabited with the chemosynthtic mussel Bathymodiolus sp. These mussels appeared to be encased in methane hydrate, formed by methane gas conglomerating at their base.

Bubbles of gas escaping from the seafloor. Delicate corals, dancing sea cucumbers, weird fish. Sunken shipwrecks holding unknown treasures. A bursting mud volcano or clear underwater river. Think you have to watch cable to see this stuff? Think again.

Between now and April 30, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be exploring the depths of the Gulf of Mexico from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and we invite you to follow the action and discovery – LIVE. Today, the ship is currently launching the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle to dive in Keathley Canyon at site KC3. Keathley Canyon is a narrow, steep-walled canyon south of the Flower Garden Banks on the continental slope. We’ll be exploring at locations in the canyon that transect canyon slopes and along the adjacent floor, looking for brine flows and hardbottom habitats.

Using satellite and high-speed Internet pathways, live seafloor video from cameras on the Deep Discoverer remotely operated vehicle and Seirios camera sled and lighting platform is streamed to scientists around the world, allowing them to participate virtually. This means the number of scientists who can provide input and conduct “at-sea” research isn’t limited by the space available on the ship. And, these same live video feeds are available online 24/7, so that anyone, anywhere can follow the exploration.

Early Career Commerce Scientists and Engineers honored by White House

President Barack Obama talks with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipients in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Official White House Photo)

The Commerce Department is home to some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers that are tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our planet and doing great work to ensure our nation remains the global epicenter of innovation. Earlier today, President Obama honored six NIST and NOAA engineers and scientists with the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) at a ceremony at the White House. The award is the highest honor given by the federal government to outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. The Commerce scientists are part of a group of 102 scientists from across federal agencies that received the prestigious award.

PECASE awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. The winners represent outstanding examples of American creativity across a diverse span of issues—from adding to our understanding of the most potent contributors to climate change to unlocking secrets to some of the most pressing medical challenges of our time to mentoring students and conducting academic outreach to increase minority representation in science fields.

Big Data is Big Business for Commerce

Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms (center) along with Erie Meyer, Joel Gurin, Waldo Jaquith, and Daniel Castro at the Center for Data Innovation hosted “The Economic Benefits of Open Data” event

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

Big Data and Open Data are all the rage these days. However, Commerce was into Big Data before Big Data was cool. As far back as 1790, we began collecting data on patents in the U.S. and the Census Bureau conducted the first Decennial Census the same year. In 1870, the National Weather Service was created – which today is one of the biggest data producing agencies around.

Back then, our economy was based largely on agriculture. Over the years, our economy evolved through the industrial revolution, later giving rise to the strong service sector. Today, we are at the nascent stages of the next era in our economic growth, the information age. On a daily basis, there is an ever-increasing amount of data becoming available, and the demand for data is increasing exponentially. We have before us both great opportunity and fascinating challenges to understand how best to harness this national resource. This is a key focus of Commerce’s Open for Business Agenda.

You may not know it, but the Department of Commerce is home to many agencies that are your primary source for data that you likely use every day.

For example:

  • How many people live in the U.S. or in your hometown? You might know the Census Bureau is the authority on population, but did you know the Census Bureau’s data goes well beyond just population? Census also produces huge volumes of data on our economy, demographics, and fascinatingly insightful data describing our communities – or, if you are a business, your customers.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis is a little know agency that produces key economic data and many of the closely watched economic indicators that move markets, drive investment decisions and guide economic policy. Do you know which industries are the leading sources of income in your community, or to your customers? BEA data can tell you.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is your primary source for weather, ocean and climate data – they are collecting data every minute of every day from land, sea, and even spaced-based sensors. When you hear the local forecast or hear about severe weather warning, that is NOAA data informing you about your environment in real time.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, locally known as NIST, is our nation’s authority on broad swaths of scientific, cyber, and physical data – including, officially, what time it is.
  • We also have data on patents going back more than 200 years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is a gold mine of inspiration for innovation.
  • Other agencies in Commerce provide data on economic development, minority businesses, trade, and telecommunications and the Internet.

On any given day, the Department will generate in excess of 20 terabytes of data, and sometimes much more. Yet, we think we can do more with this resource. We want to take every step we can to open access to it to the entrepreneurs and innovators of America, as we are pretty convinced that there is huge unmet value and potential. We understand that a huge part of the value of data is when it is not seen alone, but as part of a rich tapestry of information. We believe that there is great opportunity to solve problems, innovate new businesses, and improve data-driven decision-making, and we are committed to that path.

That is why I was so glad to be a part of today’s launch of the Open Data 500 Project, housed out of the GovLab at NYU. This exciting project has verified what we were certain must be true: That hundreds of American companies are using Commerce data every day to innovate and deliver important goods and services to their customers.