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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

What the America COMPETES Act Means for the Department of Commerce

This week, President Obama signed the America COMPETES Act, signifying the importance of science, education and technology to America’s ability to innovate and remain competitive in the 21st century. The America COMPETES Act reauthorizes spending across the federal government on a variety of programs at agencies like the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and here at the Department of Commerce.

The act authorizes our National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to receive funding that would double its core science and technology budget by 2017, and elevates the position of the director of NIST to include the additional title of Under Secretary for Standards and Technology. It better equips our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct cutting-edge research and further innovation in oceanic and atmospheric technology development. And it establishes a new Regional Innovation Program to be administered by our Economic Development Administration that encourages and develops regional innovation strategies like clusters and science and research parks that help businesses grow and take advantage of regional strengths. Finally, the new legislation reaffirms the mission of our Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship – first announced in September 2009 – which works to unleash and maximize the economic potential of new ideas by more quickly moving them from the research lab to the marketplace.

This renewed commitment to science, education and technology illustrated through bipartisan Congressional support for the America COMPETES Act will greatly benefit the work done at the U.S. Commerce Department, and help fuel U.S. job growth, economic development and global competitiveness. |  Locke statement | White House blog | NIST release

 

NOAA and FDA Announce Chemical Test for Dispersant in Gulf Seafood

Building upon the extensive testing and protocols already in use by federal, state and local officials for the fishing waters of the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have developed and are using a chemical test to detect dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in fish, oysters, crab and shrimp. Trace amounts of the chemicals used in dispersants are common, and levels for safety have been previously set.

Experts trained in a rigorous sensory analysis process have been testing Gulf seafood for the presence of contaminants, and every seafood sample from reopened waters has passed sensory testing for contamination with oil and dispersant. Nonetheless, to ensure consumers have total confidence in the safety of seafood being harvested from the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have added this second test for dispersant when considering reopening Gulf waters to fishing.

Using this new, second test, in the Gulf scientists have tested 1,735 tissue samples including more than half of those collected to reopen Gulf of Mexico federal waters. Only a few showed trace amounts of dispersants residue (13 of the 1,735) and they were well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million for finfish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs and oysters. As such, they do not pose a threat to human health.  NOAA release

NOAA Establishes Supercomputing Center in West Virginia

Image depicting new state-of-the-art NOAA supercomputer center in Fairmont, W. VaNOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco today announced a $27.6 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act investment to build a new state-of-the-art supercomputer center in Fairmont, W. Va. Lubchenco was joined by U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the NOAA Environmental Security Computing Center (NESCC), which is geared to develop and improve the accuracy of global and regional climate and weather model predictions.

“This state-of-the-art supercomputer will not only give NOAA a powerful new tool in climate and weather modeling and service delivery, it will also cement north central West Virginia's reputation as a growing high-tech center,” said Rep. Mollohan. “This facility will help anchor the I-79 Technology Park for decades to come.”  Read more

NOAA Unveils Special Collection of Civil War Maps and Nautical Charts

Map of ChickamaugaIn honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011, Commerce's Nationasl Oceanic and Atmospheric Administation (NOAA) has assembled a special historical collection of maps, charts, and documents prepared by the U.S. Coast Survey during the war years. The collection, “Charting a More Perfect Union,” contains over nearly 400 documents, available free from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey website.

“People are planning now for their visits to Civil War sites next year, and we want to give them an opportunity to visualize the terrain, ports, and coasts as they were from 1861 to 1865,” said Meredith Westington, NOAA’s chief geographer. “Most people wouldn’t think of turning to NOAA for historical Civil War documents, but the agency has an amazing legacy.”

Coast Survey’s collection includes 394 Civil War-era maps, including nautical charts used for naval campaigns, and maps of troop movements and battlefields. Rarely seen publications include Notes on the Coast, prepared by Coast Survey to help Union forces plan naval blockades against the Confederacy, and the annual report summaries by Superintendent Bache as he detailed the trials and tribulations of producing the maps and charts needed to meet growing military demands. | The Civil War special collection is accessible through a searchable database at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/history/CivilWar. |  Read more 

Secretary Locke to Appoint Special Master to Review NOAA Law Enforcement Cases, Restricts Use of the Asset Forfeiture Fund

On September 23, 2010, U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke announced sweeping reforms to increase accountability and transparency and strengthen the public’s trust in NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation. Locke, invoking his authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, announced he will appoint the Honorable Charles B. Swartwood, III (Ret.) to serve as Special Master to review enforcement cases the Commerce Department’s Inspector General identified in its most recent report as problematic, some dating as far back as 2001. Locke will also ask the Special Master to review the complaints that the IG received that were not discussed in the September Report to see if review of those complaints is also warranted.  Judge Swartwood will make recommendations to Locke on whether to take action to modify or remit the penalties.

Judge Swartwood formerly served as Chief Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts and currently serves as the Chairman of the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission.

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Atlantic Hurricane Tracks

Website provides storm paths by ZIP code; includes population trends, storm history

Graphic from NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks tool shows all hurricanes passing within 65 nautical miles of Cape Hatteras, N.C., since 1900.An updated NOAA website lets everyone from reporters to city planners track local historical storm activity, review specific storm tracks and obtain information about a particular storm’s landfall. NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks website and mapping application generates customized, downloadable maps based on more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane data.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks tool, developed by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in partnership with the National Hurricane Center, allows users to search by U.S. ZIP code, state or county, storm name or year, or latitude and longitude points. With the search results, users can generate a map showing the storm track accompanied by a table of related information.  Read more  |  Larger graphic

NOAA-Sponsored Scientists First to Map Offshore San Andreas Fault and Associated Ecosystems

This mulitbeam sonar image shows the San Andreas Fault cutting through the head of Noyo CanyonFor the first time, scientists are using advanced technology and an innovative vessel to study, image, and map the unexplored offshore Northern San Andreas Fault from north of San Francisco to its termination at the junction of three tectonic plates off Mendocino, California.

The team includes scientists from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon State University, the California Seafloor Mapping Program, the U.S. Geological Survey and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The expedition which concludes Sunday is sponsored by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

While the fault on land is obscured by erosion, vegetation and urbanization in many places, scientists expect the subsea portion of the fault to include deep rifts and high walls, along with areas supporting animal life. The expedition team is using high-resolution sonar mapping, subsurface seismic data and imaging with digital cameras for the first-ever three-dimensional bathymetric-structural map that will model the undersea Northern San Andreas Fault and its structure. Little is known about the offshore fault due to perennial bad weather that has limited scientific investigations.

NIST Awards $50 Million in Grants for Construction of Science Facilities

Artist rendering of new science facilityThe U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today awarded a total of $50 million in grants to five institutions to support the construction of new scientific research facilities that will explore everything from nanometer-scale electronics and “green” buildings to microbe ecosystems in the oceans. The five projects receiving funding under the NIST Construction Grant Program (NCGP) will contribute to almost $133 million in new laboratory construction projects, according to grantees.

“Strengthening research and development in the United States is critical to our ability to create jobs and remain competitive,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “These construction grants will help the U.S. produce world-leading research in science and technology that will advance our economic growth and international competitiveness.”  Release  |  Read more on the Construction Program

NOAA: Fourth-Warmest U.S. Summer on Record

U.S. temperature map graphicThe contiguous United States had its fourth-warmest summer (June-August) on record, according to the latest NOAA State of the Climate report issued today. The report also showed the August average temperature was 75.0 degrees F, which is 2.2 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Last month’s average precipitation was 2.41 inches, 0.19 inch below the 1901-2000 average.

The monthly analysis, based on records dating back to 1895, is prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.  Read more

NOAA Reopens More than 30,000 Square Miles in the Gulf to Fishing

Map of Reopened Fishing AreaToday NOAA reopened 3,114 square miles of Gulf waters offshore of the western Florida panhandle to commercial and recreational fishing. The reopening was announced after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

“We are pleased to continue moving forward with reopening portions of Gulf federal waters to recreational and commercial fishing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “I’d like to thank everyone for their patience throughout this process, as we work to ensure seafood safety remains our primary objective.”

At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 55 miles northeast of the Deepwater/BP wellhead. The total area is about one percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Release