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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

NOAA Releases Hurricane Predictions for 2013 Season

Image of Hurricane from Space

NOAA expects an active Atlantic hurricane season, but below-normal Pacific hurricane season

In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year. For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center announced that a below-normal hurricane season is most likely for the Eastern Pacific this year. The outlook calls for a 55 percent probability of a below-normal season, a 35 percent probability of a near-normal season and a 10 percent probability of an above-normal season. Seasonal hurricane forecasters are calling for a 70 percent chance of 11 to 16 named storms, which includes 5 to 8 hurricanes, of which 1 to 4 are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center announced that climate conditions point to a below-normal season in the Central Pacific Basin this year. For 2013, the outlook calls for a 70 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 5 percent chance of an above-normal season. We expect 1 to 3 tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season. An average season has 4 to 5 tropical cyclones, which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. The outlook for a below-normal season is based upon the continuation of neutral El Niño–Southern Oscillation conditions. The Central Pacific Basin also remains on the low activity side of a multi-decadal cycle. Historical records show that this combination of conditions tends to produce a less active hurricane season for the central Pacific.

Digital Government Strategy Brings Big Changes to the Commerce Department

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy, an effort by the Administration to transform public-facing government services in line with 21st century expectations. The Department of Commerce has made some big strides in providing better information to citizens in a timely manner through multiple formats and increasing access to services on mobile devices. The goal is to make citizen services and information available anywhere, anytime, and on any device, and in formats that facilitate additional use by public developers and entrepreneurs.

Technology is changing so rapidly that nearly 50% of American adults own a smart phone today, up from 35% only one year ago. To help keep pace with the rapid deployment of mobile technology, Commerce is working hard to ensure our services and data are available to citizens in whatever format and on whatever device they prefer. For example, earlier this week, NOAA released a mobile app to provide free nautical charts for recreational boaters to ensure safer and easier boating. NOAA is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version of their Shortfin Mako Shark Live Release app for public release next week. The success of these apps builds upon the America’s Economy app from the U.S. Census Bureau that already has more than 90,000 downloads.

We also have released the additional data for public consumption. For example, the International Trade Administration has released an application programming interface (API) for Export Trade Events so that data can be used by other organizations to pull the most relevant events for their members. The Department's Bureau of Industry and Security created the Commerce Control List Order of Review Decision Tool, a new web-based tool to assist exporters in understanding changes being made as part of the Administration's Export Control Reform Initiative. All information available for public use is on Data.gov and also on our new Developer page. The release of this data and APIs is intended to provide developers, researches, entrepreneurs and others with the ability to access government data in ways that make it easier to use and program.

NOAA’s Latest Mobile App Provides Free Nautical Charts for Recreational Boating

Image of U.S. Coast Pilot guidebook and tablet displaying nautical map

Public is invited to try beta version of MyNOAACharts

As recreational boaters gear up for a summer of fun on coastal waters and the Great Lakes, Commercee's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is testing MyNOAACharts, a new mobile application that allows users to download NOAA nautical charts and editions of the U.S. Coast Pilot. The app, which is only designed for Android tablets for the testing period, was released on May 20.

MyNOAACharts, which can be used on land and on the water, has GPS built-in capabilities that allow users find their positions on a NOAA nautical chart. They can zoom in any specific location with a touch of the finger, or zoom out for the big picture to plan their day of sailing. The Coast Pilot has “geotagged” some of the major locations—embedding geographical information, such as latitude and longitude, directly into the chart so it is readable in the app—and provides links to appropriate federal regulations. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play™ app store. Full NOAA release

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

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 Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator

NOAA transforms scientific data about our complex and ever-changing Earth into environmental information that touches every American, protecting their lives and livelihoods against natural hazards, informing their personal and business decisions and supporting wise management of natural resources in our coastal and marine environments. We operate the nation’s weather satellites, and our National Weather Service is the source of all your weather forecasts. Other NOAA units produce the Nation’s nautical charts, manage our marine fisheries and operate America’s underwater national parks, known as National Marine Sanctuaries. As Acting Administrator, I oversee the agency’s work to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to provide timely, reliable ‘environmental intelligence’ to inform sound decision-making by citizens, businesses and public officials, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.

I was lucky to grow up in Southern California at a time when an adventurous young girl could safely roam the open hills and valleys nearby, whetting her appetite for the grander expeditions she hoped to make someday. I was also inspired by the daring feats of America’s first astronauts and the exotic adventures of oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, which filled our TV screens and magazines regularly and reinforced just how exciting a life of exploration could be. It never bothered me that everyone I was watching was male. My brother and I were raised with the view that every person has unique talents and interests and should pursue them as they see fit, regardless of what someone else thinks is ‘right’ for girls or boys. This attitude, plus my parents’ unwavering trust and support, inoculated me against the peer pressure I encountered at school and with my neighborhood friends and helped me steer my own course.

NOAA Predicts Mixed Bag of Drought, Flooding and Warm Weather for Spring

Cherry blosssoms (Photo: National Park Service

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued the three-month U.S. Spring Outlook, stating that odds favor above-average temperatures across much of the continental United States, including drought-stricken areas of Texas, the Southwest and the Great Plains. Spring promises little drought relief for most of these areas, as well as Florida, with below- average spring precipitation favored there. Meanwhile, river flooding is likely to be worse than last year across the country, with the most significant flood potential in North Dakota.

"This outlook reminds us of the climate diversity and weather extremes we experience in North America, where one state prepares for flooding while neighboring states are parched, with no drought relief in sight," said Laura Furgione, deputy director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "We produce this outlook to help communities prepare for what's likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather's impacts on lives and livelihoods. A Weather-Ready Nation hopes for the best, but prepares for the worst."

The U.S. Spring Outlook identifies the likelihood of spring flood risk and expectations for temperature, precipitation and drought. The outlook is based on a number of factors, including current conditions of snowpack, drought, soil moisture, streamflow, precipitation, Pacific Ocean temperatures and consensus among climate forecast models. Full release

Two Civil War Sailors from the Ironclad USS Monitor Interred at Arlington National Cemetery

USS Monitor with sailors standing on board

151st anniversary of Battle of Hampton Roads

The remains of two unknown USS Monitor sailors, recovered by NOAA and the U.S. Navy in 2002 from the ship’s gun turret, were buried today, with full military honors, at Arlington National Cemetery. The USS Monitor sank in a New Year’s Eve storm just over 150 years ago, carrying 16 crew members to their deaths. 

“Just as the crew of the Monitor fought tirelessly to keep their ‘old-time knight in armor’ afloat, so have many worked tirelessly since her loss to keep their commitment to her, and to the 16 sailors who answered the call-to-arms of a young nation in peril, and paid the ultimate price,” said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Acting Under Secretary of Commerce  for Oceans and Atmosphere and acting NOAA administrator, in remarks at the memorial service. “One major step toward that was taken some 40 years ago, when the nation designated the place where Monitor lies as America’s first National Marine Sanctuary, marking it forever as a place of special national significance. We are gathered here today to take another major step, laying two of her sailors to rest in the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. As we do so, let us all reaffirm our own commitment to forever remember the work of the Monitor and insure her story is told to our children’s children.

“As keepers of the USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA is committed to protecting the final resting site of this ‘little boat’ and her valiant crew, and to assuring that the memory and the legacy of the Monitor and her crew are preserved and passed on to future generations,” she added. Full release.

Prepare for Severe Weather, Urge NOAA and FEMA

WWeather Preparedness Week logo

Be a Force of Nature: Know your risk, take action, be an example

NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have partnered again this year for National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Severe weather is far more common than most realize. The five most dangerous severe weather hazards -- tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, floods and winter storms, can be powerful and damaging. While spring is considered the height of season, severe weather occurs in every month of the year and in all 50 states. In 2012, there were more than 450 weather related fatalities and more than 2,600 injuries.

“Severe weather can happen anytime, anywhere,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “We urge everyone to take steps in advance and to pledge to prepare, take action and share what you have done with others. You can find information on how to prepare for severe weather at Ready.gov.”

Be a Force of Nature - Every one of us can help our communities prepare for extreme weather by following these guidelines:

  • Know Your Risk:  The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Every state in the United States has experienced tornadoes and severe weather, so everyone is exposed to some degree of risk. Check the weather forecast regularly and visitReady.gov/severeweather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family when severe weather strikes.

  • Take Action, Pledge to Prepare: Be a Force of Nature by making sure that you and your family are prepared for severe weather. Pledge to prepare at Ready.gov. Fill out your family communications plan that you can email to yourself, put together an emergency kit, and keep important papers and valuables in a safe place.

Stay informed by having multiple sources for weather alerts such as a NOAA Weather Radio, Weather.gov, and Wireless Emergency Alerts. And, sign up for localized alerts from emergency management officials.

  • Be an example: Once you have taken action Be a Force of Nature by telling family, friends, and co-workers to do the same. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network. Create a preparedness video and post on a video sharing site; post your story through your social media network and comment on a blog. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to help us achieve the vision of a Weather-Ready Nation.

Join us today and pledge to prepare for the severe weather in our area.  More 

New Smart Phone App Lets Public Report Rain, Hail, Sleet and Snow to NOAA

New Smart Phone App Lets Public Report Rain, Hail, Sleet and Snow to NOAA

Public reports will aid weather research

It’s now easier than ever to be a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather research. The NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma, has launched a free app for users to anonymously report precipitation from their Apple or Android mobile device.

With the mPING app,anyone can send a weather observation on the go. The user simply opens the app, selects the type of precipitation that is falling at his or her location, and presses submit. The user’s location and the time of the observation are automatically included in the report.

All submissions will become part of a research project called PING – Precipitation Identification Near the Ground. NSSL and OU researchers will use the mPING submissions to build a valuable database of tens of thousands of observations from across the United States.  Full press release

NOAA Satellites Aid in 263 Rescues in 2012 After Detecting Distress Signals

Satellites vital to search and rescue operations

The same NOAA weather and climate satellites that accurately tracked Hurricane Sandy’s path in October also played a key role in rescuing 263 people in 111 emergencies in the United States and surrounding waters in 2012.

Since NOAA’s seven operational satellites circle the globe or sit above the United States, they also carry instruments to detect distress signals from emergency beacons carried by downed pilots, shipwrecked boaters and stranded hikers.

In addition to their role in weather prediction, these polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System, called Cospas-Sarsat. This system uses a network of satellites to quickly pinpoint the location of the distress signals. Release

State-of-the-Art Sonar Map Reveals New Details of Sunken Civil War-era Warship

Top: The USS Hatteras as depicted in a drawing by Civil War artist Francis H. Schell that he titled, “The Destruction of the USA gunboat Hatteras.” Below:  This three-dimensional sonar scan shows remains of the USS Hatteras protruding above the seabed as surveyed in late 2012.

A new, 3-D state-of-the-art sonar map released January 11 by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, ExploreOcean, Teledyne Blueview, and Northwest Hydro shows never-before-seen details of the USS Hatteras, the only Union warship sunk in combat in the Gulf of Mexico during the Civil War.

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, approximately 20 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas, the Hatteras, an iron-hulled steamship the U.S. Navy converted into a gunboat, was sunk during a battle with the famous Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama. The battle was one of the skirmishes that saw the key southern port of Galveston change hands twice and remain one of the last bastions of the Confederacy.

Today, the wreck of the Hatteras is largely intact, resting 57 feet underwater in sand and silt. Recent hurricanes and storms have removed some of the sediment and sand that once encased the vessel like a time capsule. Given shifting sands may once again rebury the Hatteras, the team used a short window of opportunity for a two-day mission last fall to create 3-D photo mosaics of the Hatteras for research, education, and outreach purposes.  Read more  |  Photo gallery