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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

NOAA’s Modeling and Mapping Data Enhance Nation’s Ability to Provide Tsunami Warnings Along U.S. Coastlines

NOAA Kicks Off Tsunami Preparedness Week

As we kick off Tsunami Preparedness Week, we pause to remember the 124 Americans who prematurely lost their lives without warning 50 years ago, when a powerful earthquake sent several tsunami waves crashing into coastal towns in Alaska, Oregon and California. On March 27, 1964, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake – the largest recorded earthquake in U.S. history and the second largest in world history – occurred in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. In addition to the lives lost, the tsunamis caused an estimated $1 billion in damage.

Since 1964, we’ve been reminded about the power and danger of tsunamis. The devastation and heartbreak of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami remains with us a decade later, and images from the Japan tsunami are still fresh in our minds three years later. These events should serve as a reminder that a powerful tsunami can strike anywhere in the world, any time of year, and the U.S. is no exception.

Coastal populations and infrastructure have increased significantly over the past 50 years, making the U.S. even more vulnerable to the impacts of a tsunami. However, the nation also has made substantial advancements in earthquake science and the ability to prepare for, detect, forecast, and warn about tsunamis. While we cannot stop a tsunami from happening, we can minimize loss of life and property through preparation.

Today, NOAA leads the U.S. Tsunami Warning System, which includes operating two, 24/7 tsunami warning centers; managing a network of tide gauges and tsunami buoys, and monitoring seismic stations throughout the world’s oceans; administering the TsunamiReady program; and leading the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, a state-federal partnership that works together to prepare America for a tsunami. 

Effective preparedness depends on accurate hazard assessments. In recent years, NOAA and its state partners have made significant progress in modeling and mapping the tsunami hazard along U.S. coastlines, which has enhanced the nation’s ability to forecast and provide warnings for tsunamis. One key aspect of a hazard assessment is the accurate prediction of where coasts will flood during a tsunami. NOAA builds and updates high-resolution coastal digital elevation models, which depict Earth’s solid surface to further the understanding of ocean processes, like tsunamis, and inform decision-making. The models are incorporated into tsunami models, which simulate tsunami movement across the ocean and the magnitude and location of coastal flooding caused when the tsunami reaches the shore. The results of these simulations enable tsunami warning centers to issue more accurate forecasts, as well as support state-level evacuation mapping, preparedness and mitigation planning. 

NOAA Data Supports Coastal Resilience and Preparedness Efforts; White House to Announce Launch of Climate Data Initiative

Coastal Intelligence takes many NOAA resources

As part of the United States government’s efforts to make its data more accessible to the public, entrepreneurs, researchers and others as fuel for innovation and economic growth, today, NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan will  help announce the launch of the President’s Climate Data Initiative climate.data.gov. A new climate-focused section of Data.gov, climate.data.gov will make federal data about our climate more open, accessible, and useful to citizens, decision-makers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and innovators.  It will initially focus on coastal flooding and sea level rise and aims to strengthen preparedness and resilience to the effects of climate change through new products and services.

NOAA, part of the Department of Commerce, which has also made supporting a data-enabled economy a priority, is the quintessential big data agency.  Each day, NOAA gathers billions of observations about the health of our planet and then analyzes this data to predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and our coasts. 

NOAA’s National Ocean Service is one prime example.  Whether it is the nation's nautical charts, environmental monitoring and assessment, or socioeconomic tools, NOAA’s Ocean Service turns data into actionable information. NOAA’s goal is to increase environmental intelligence that many times relates to our coasts. This term refers to the information that is used by governments, businesses, and citizens to make decisions that support healthy ecosystems, strong economies, and resilient communities along our coasts. NOAA’s Ocean Service goes beyond collecting observations, analyzing data, and conducting research to translating that science into information to support good decisions.

Department of Commerce releases FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

Plan priorities are in direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda”

Today the Department of Commerce released its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The five-year plan, along with the recently released FY15 budget, provides the pathway for meeting the Department’s long-term goals and objectives. The plan, summarizes the key strategies and initiatives that will drive progress in the Department’s five priority areas:

  • Trade and Investment. Expanding the U.S. economy through increased exports and foreign direct investment that leads to more and better American jobs.
  • Innovation. Fostering a more innovative U.S. economy—one that is better at inventing, improving, and commercializing products and technologies that lead to higher productivity and  competitiveness.
  • Data. Improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.
  • Environment. Ensuring communities and businesses have the necessary information, products, and services to prepare for and prosper in a changing environment.
  • Operational Excellence. Delivering better services, solutions, and outcomes that benefit the American people.

The creation of the strategic plan was a collaborative effort involving staff from every Department of Commerce bureau and serves as a foundation for economic growth and opportunity. The plan is in direct alignment with the  “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects the Department’s role as the voice of business, and the Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Department leaders and employees will use this plan to transform strategies into actions, and actions into results.

Read a summary of the plan or the entire plan.

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NOAA Encourages Businesses and Organizations to Become Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

NOAA Encourages Businesses and Organizations to Become Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors During National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

As part of its commitment to build a Weather-Ready Nation, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador initiative last month. NOAA’s National Weather Service is recognizing the first 100 Ambassadors during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, March 2 to 8. NOAA urges more businesses and organizations to join the group of Ambassadors in working with NOAA to strengthen national resilience in the face of extreme weather. 

Among the new Ambassadors are weather industry partners, including AccuWeather, Raytheon, The Weather Channel and Vaisala, along with businesses, nonprofits, universities, and other organizations. These organizations bring a wide range of expertise, from community preparedness and safety to supercomputing and observations.

One Ambassador with recent weather-ready experience is the Moore Medical Center in Oklahoma. On May 20, 2013, an EF-5 tornado struck the Center. Fortunately, the hospital staff had a well-practiced emergency plan and carefully monitored the National Weather Service forecast that day.

When a tornado warning was issued, staff quickly relocated patients and others to windowless safe areas and used mattresses and blankets to protect them from flying debris. Damage to the hospital was extensive, but no lives were lost. More than 300 individuals who were at the center that day survived, due in large part to the planning and actions of the hospital administration and staff. 

Spotlight on Commerce: Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

Spotlight on Commerce: Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Russell F. Smith III, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

As the deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I oversee the nation’s engagement in international fisheries. My responsibilities include providing general policy guidance on various aspects of NOAA’s international fisheries work, such as sustainable management of fisheries, the protection of marine resources, and supporting the export of U.S. fisheries products. I also represent the U.S. government at various international meetings. In carrying out these responsibilities, I work closely with other NOAA employees and government officials from other agencies, including the State Department, the Coast Guard and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In addition, I frequently consult with various stakeholders, including representatives of the fishing industry, non-governmental organizations, and academia. I also regularly work with representatives of foreign countries. 

As Americans, we care about the global management of our oceans for a number of reasons. Seafood is an important and healthy source of protein in the diets of many Americans and many others in the world. The seafood industry provides many jobs for fishermen and women, as well as those that build their boats and gear, seafood processors, suppliers, and many others. Although many once thought that seafood was an endless resource, we now know it is not. Providing the world with this important source of food, jobs, and economic opportunity requires careful management. 

Some seafood is easily managed on the local level. However, other species, such as many of the tunas, travel far beyond national boundaries and their harvest can only be successfully managed when nations cooperate. Our mission is to work with these other nations for the sustainable management of global fisheries that is based on the best available science and that protects other non-target species and habitats from potential adverse impacts of fishing. We also work to ensure that nations are complying with adopted measures and working cooperatively with developing countries to support their ability to implement such measures. My position combines international relations with fisheries, employment, development and environmental policies. 

NOAA Moves to Unleash “Big Data” and Calls Upon American Companies to Help

Guest blog post by Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., Acting Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator 

From the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce, works to keep citizens informed about the changing environment around them. Our vast network of radars, satellites, buoys, ships, aircraft, tide gauges, and supercomputers keeps tabs on the condition of our planet’s health and provides critical data that are used to predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coastlines. As we continue to witness changes on this dynamic planet we call home, the demand for NOAA’s data is only increasing. 

Quite simply, NOAA is the quintessential big data agency. Each day, NOAA collects, analyzes, and generates over 20 terabytes of data – twice the amount of data than what is in the United States Library of Congress’ entire printed collection. However, only a small percentage is easily accessible to the public. 

NOAA is not the only Commerce agency with a treasure trove of valuable information. The economic and demographic statistics from the Census Bureau, for example, inform business decisions every day. According to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute Report, open data could add more than $3 trillion in total value annually to the education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, health care, and consumer finance sectors worldwide. That is why U.S. Secretary of  Commerce Penny Pritzker has made unleashing the power of Commerce data one of the top priorities of the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” 

Imagine the economic potential if more of these data could be released. Trillions more bytes of data from NOAA could help existing businesses, start-up companies, and even non-governmental organizations develop new and innovative products – products that might help us better understand our planet and keep communities, businesses, and ecosystems resilient from extreme events. 

It is a challenge that will take creative and unconventional thinking, and it is something we can’t tackle alone. 

Celebrating 40 Years Protecting and Recovering Endangered Species

Eastern Steller sea lion, the most recent delisting from NOAA Fisheries

This December is the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—the legislation protecting our country’s diverse wildlife and the legacy left for future generations. The Act, signed into law on December 28, 1973, by President Nixon, provides a critical safety net for fish, wildlife, and plants. It has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species and promotes the recovery of many others while conserving the habitats upon which they depend.

Endangered species recovery is complex and difficult work, requiring the efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many committed partners. Just as it takes a long time for species to reach the brink of extinction, it takes a long time to bring them back. 

NOAA Dedicates Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Honolulu

Alternate TextNOAA dedicates Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Honolulu

On Monday, December 16, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) held a dedication ceremony to unveil the
Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center located on Ford Island in Honolulu. The facility, named for the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye in January 2013, is the last phase of a campus environment that will house 15 NOAA offices with more than 700 staff, and most of the NOAA assets in Hawai'i.

Acting NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan attended the dedication ceremony along with the late senator's wife, Mrs. Irene Hirano Inouye, members of the Hawai'i Congressional delegation, as well as Navy, state, and local representatives. Senator Inouye passed away in December 2012, after a distinguished, nearly 50-year career in the United States Senate.

In her remarks, Dr. Sullivan stressed the fact that Senator Inouye was a great friend to NOAA and a great advocate for Hawaiians and our country's natural resources. The late Senator Inouye, with support from the Hawai'i Congressional delegation and the state of Hawai'i, led the effort to redevelop Ford Island and secure the necessary funding for a world class facility to support NOAA's science, service and stewardship mission in the Pacific Region. The $331 million project was partially funded under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and represents the largest capital facility project in NOAA's history.

In January 2013, the facility was named in Senator Inouye's honor, in recognition of his significant contribution to ocean and environmental issues and his steadfast support for the construction of the campus.

The center is a 35-acre parcel on federally owned property and combines new facilities with the historic preservation of four buildings culminating into a campus which is environmentally sustainable, state of the art, and Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Gold Certified. Specifically, the project involves the renovation and construction of a new central office and laboratory facility, logistics warehouse and seawater facility, port facility, and piers for both large and small vessels.

NOAA anticipates the new facility will save more than $3 million per year in operating and other costs by eliminating office leases, lower energy costs, and consolidation of information technology infrastructure. The site location inspired the designers to feature three key natural resources - water, wind, and sun - into a high-performance facility well adapted to its site, climate and culture.

NOAA Issues Arctic Report Card: Long-Term Warming and Environmental Change Trends Persist in 2013

NOAA Announces 2013 Arctic Report Card

According to a new report released today by NOAA and its partners, cooler temperatures in the summer of 2013 across the central Arctic Ocean, Greenland and northern Canada moderated the record sea ice loss and extensive melting that the surface of the Greenland ice sheet experienced last year. Yet there continued to be regional extremes, including record low May snow cover in Eurasia and record high summer temperatures in Alaska.

The findings were released today by David M. Kennedy, NOAA’s deputy under secretary for operations, during a press briefing at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco. Kennedy stated the Arctic caught a bit of a break in 2013 from the recent string of record-breaking warmth and ice melt of the last decade.  Kennedy joined other scientists to release the Arctic Report Card 2013, which has, since 2006, summarized changing conditions in the Arctic. One hundred forty-seven authors from 14 countries contributed to the peer-reviewed report. 

In 2006, NOAA’s Climate Program Office introduced the State of the Arctic Report which established a baseline of conditions at the beginning of the 21st century. It is updated annually as the Arctic Report Card to document the often-quickly changing conditions in the Arctic. In addition, for the first time, scientists also released new information on marine fishes and black carbon.  

NOAA’s Stunning Science On a Sphere® Now in 100 Locations Worldwide

Image of the Spehere

A glowing six-foot diameter sphere, suspended from the ceiling of NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., is the 100th Science On a Sphere® installed around the world. The 3-D display system, which was unveiled November 22, illuminates awe-inspiring animations of planet Earth and is used by educators, curators and scientists alike to explore global environmental data, such as swirling hurricanes, clouds and ocean currents. 

Science On a Sphere® (SOS) is seen by 33 million people annually in 15 countries, 27 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and American Samoa. Using computers and video projectors, the system displays planetary data on an opaque carbon fiber sphere, and presenters can draw from more than 400 annotated datasets to highlight weather observations, climate models, ocean acidification plus the latest solar system imagery.  Read more