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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

NOAA Harnesses Digital Technology to Empower Commercial Innovation in Nautical Charts

NOAA harnesses digital technology to empower commercial innovation in nautical charts

The nautical chart – that simple and so very complex map that enables safe navigation over millions of miles of coastal waters – is undergoing a revolution. For two hundred years, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has gathered ocean measurements and created the Nation’s nautical charts – on paper. NOAA pioneered digital charts in the 1990s, and demand has grown steadily since then. This year, NOAA decided to shift the focus of chart production to digital products, while still supporting an important (but declining) demand for paper. Using digital technology, cartographers can now use more data at a higher spatial resolution and richer attribution than was possible on paper nautical charts, giving the maritime industry greater navigational intelligence to manage risks.

Last year, Coast Survey beta tested MyNOAACharts, an app for Android tablets that allowed users to download NOAA nautical charts. Users could find their positions on updated charts; they could zoom in on any location, or zoom out for the big picture to plan a day of sailing. Hundreds of users commented during the beta test, providing essential insights, and Coast Survey listened. One key project insight was that Coast Survey’s distribution formats for nautical charts are not well suited to mobile apps. Coast Survey also recognized that there is an innovative and growing commercial market for mobile navigation apps.

With input from the user community in mind, Coast Survey decided to cancel further development of the app and instead refocused efforts on improving the distribution system for charts and other navigation data. This summer, for instance, Coast Survey will make it easier for app developers to use NOAA charts in their products by breaking charts into much smaller “tiles,” which are used widely in mobile apps, web maps, and commercial chart plotters. This will empower the next generation of app developers, chart redistributors and software entrepreneurs to create new navigation products, and speed updated chart information to U.S. boaters.

Celebrate our Natural Treasures During National Ocean Month

Celebrate our Natural Treasures During National Ocean Month

June is not only the beginning of summer, it’s also Oceans Month. President Obama proclaimed June as Oceans Month as a way to reaffirm our responsibility to keep our oceans and coastal ecosystems healthy and resilient. Our oceans are natural treasures, a source of food and energy, and a foundation for our way of life. U.S. fisheries play an enormous role in the nation’s economy. When stocks are rebuilt, they provide more economic opportunities for commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishing.

Many Americans depend on the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes to earn a living and millions of tourists from all walks of life visit our natural treasures every year. Our oceans provide a habitat for scores of species. They are vital to our Nation's transportation, economy, and trade, linking us with countries across the globe and playing a role in our national security. Join us throughout the month of June as we celebrate National Oceans Month. Below are upcoming events NOAA is participating in to celebrate.

Every year, Capitol Hill Oceans Week (June 10-12) brings together Members of Congress, scientists, public-private stakeholders, community and federal leaders across interests to share their respective visions to shape our National Ocean Policy. Leaders will actively engage in dialogue that will help define how we live with our ocean and marine ecosystems. To learn more, visit http://nmsfocean.org/CHOW-2014.

On June 16-17, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, will participate in the State Department-hosted International Ocean Conference. NOAA is developing a Science on a Sphere presentation that will reflect conference themes: Ocean Acidification, Sustainable Fisheries and Marine Pollution, including Excess Nutrients. To learn more visit http://ourocean2014.state.gov/ and following us on Twitter with the hashtag #OurOcean2014.

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.