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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

NOAA Ramps Up 'Weather-Ready Nation' Initiative in Nation's Capital

National Weather Service office building

Launches new project to enhance weather forecasts and support for D.C, Baltimore

On Friday, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced service improvements underway at its forecast office in Sterling, Va., which provides weather forecasts and warnings and supports public safety decision-makers in the nation's capital and Baltimore. This is the latest in a series of six pilot projects NOAA launched over the past year as part of its Weather-Ready Nation initiative to improve the country's resilience to extreme weather.

The six Weather-Ready Nation projects focus on emergency response, ecological forecasting and enhanced support to officials who make public health and safety decisions when extreme weather sets in. Successful projects may be duplicated in other locations. NOAA release

NOAA Announces $4.5 Million in Environmental Literacy Grants to Support K-12 Science Education and Stewardship Projects

Students and teachers explore global data visualizations with NOAA’s Science On a Sphere at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI).  The sphere will serve as a focal point for K-12 teacher professional development programs at MSI, which is one of eight new recipients of NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants.  (Photo credit:  MSI)

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday that it is awarding eight new education grants to enhance science education activities in classrooms, aquariums, museums and other institutions across America. These awards support six unique, multi-year projects and will share $4.5 million in grants from the NOAA Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy Grants Program. Projects are designed to increase stewardship and informed decision-making within a diverse pool of educators, students and the public to help promote environmental literacy.

“NOAA’s Office of Education is proud to partner with such an impressive group of organizations,” said Louisa Koch, director of education at NOAA. “It is only with the help of institutions such as these that we can successfully engage the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics while supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship."

The projects receiving grant funding focus on engaging formal and informal educators along with K-12 students. Project activities include formal K-12 educator training programs to help teachers incorporate NOAA data and other resources into experiential learning activities; service learning programs for K-12 students that combine standards-based learning with stewardship activities in students’ local communities; and professional development to enhance informal science educators’ effectiveness in increasing public understanding of complex ocean topics. The selected projects will partner with NOAA’s research laboratories, national marine sanctuaries, Climate Program Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Weather Service, Pacific Services Center, Coral Reef Conservation Program and Sea Grant.  NOAA release

NOAA: Contiguous U.S. Experiences Third-Hottest Summer on Record

Map showing U.S. states and relative temperature from below to above average

Warm and dry conditions continue in August; Isaac brings heavy rain to Gulf Coast and some drought relief to the Midwest

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during August was 74.4°F, 1.6°F above the long term average, marking the 16th warmest August on record. The warmer than average August, in combination with the hottest July and a warmer than average June, contributed to the third hottest summer on record since recordkeeping began in 1895.

The summer season's (June-August) nationally-averaged temperature was 74.4°F, 2.3°F above the 20th century average. Only the summers of 2011 (74.5°F) and 1936 (74.6°F) had higher temperatures for the Lower 48.

The August nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.59 inches was near the long-term average. The Southwest and Southeast were wetter than average and the Northwest and the Northern Plains were drier than average. As of August 28th, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 63% of the contiguous U.S. continued to experience drought conditions. 

August climate highlights:

  • Higher-than-average temperatures occurred across much of the West. Much of the Northeast was also warmer than average, where five states from Maine to Delaware had monthly temperatures among its ten warmest.
  • Drier-than-average conditions stretched from the Pacific Northwest, through the Rockies, and into the Upper Midwest. 
  • Hurricane Isaac made landfall along Louisiana's coast on August 28th with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. The major impacts from the hurricane were storm surge along the Gulf Coast and heavy rainfall, both of which were driven partially by the storm's slow motion and large size.
  • Over 3.6 million acres burned nationwide, mostly across the West. The acreage burned was nearly twice the August average and the most for the month in the 12-year period record.

Full release for August and June-August climate highlights

Learn More About the Ocean and Great Lakes Economy on BEA’s New Web Portal

Tugboat

Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from the Bureau of Economic Analysis's blog. It highlights the coordination and collaboration between BEA and NOAA to bring value in data and services to the American public.

How many jobs are created from the construction of a new bridge or an increase in tourism?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) new Web portal on the ocean and Great Lakes economy shows how the Bureau’s Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II) can be used to provide answers to such questions. The new Web site stems from a joint project with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

RIMS II, a regional economic model, is used by investors, planners, and elected officials to objectively assess the returns to projects ranging from a new sports stadium to a new bridge. The returns include the short- and long-term increases in jobs and spending associated with the projects.

The idea behind the results of RIMS II is that an initial change in economic activity leads to additional changes in economic activity in other parts of an economy—for example, building a new bridge leads to increased production of concrete and steel. The increased production of concrete and steel leads to more mining. Workers benefiting from these increases may also enjoy bigger paychecks, so they may then spend more by eating out at nicer restaurants or splurging more on entertainment.

Military Vets to Help Rebuild Northern California Fisheries

Military Veterans Help Rebuild Northern California Fisheries

NOAA partners with California to offer training and employment in habitat restoration; space still available for veterans to apply

Veterans will get a chance to train and work on habitat restoration and fisheries monitoring through a project funded by NOAA and administered in partnership with the California Conservation Corps and California’s Department of Fish and Game.

During the yearlong program of paid training and hands-on experience, veterans will spend part of the time on habitat restoration and will also receive training and experience in firefighting and reducing fire hazards. 

“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries. “Military veterans have tremendous skills to offer, and by helping to restore fish habitats they will be supporting the important role of commercial and recreational fishing in the economy. Restoration jobs pay dividends twice, first because they put people to work immediately, and then because restoration benefits our fisheries, tourism, and coastal communities for years to come.” 

Veterans will start the program by taking courses in how to collect data and evaluate the effectiveness of coastal and marine habitat restoration. By mid- to late October, they will begin monitoring several river restoration sites in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Mendocino counties that were designed to increase spawning and rearing habitat for populations of endangered coho salmon in accordance with the recovery plan developed under the Endangered Species Act. The restored habitat should also help boost populations of Chinook and steelhead trout as well as improve environmental quality generally. See the full release.

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Hurricane Tracks

Map of U.S. with storm and hurricane trackings

Understanding historical hurricane landfalls is important in preparing for current storms

Seeing where hurricanes have hit and how often is one of the best ways to bring home a powerful hurricane preparedness message. A NOAA website, Historical Hurricane Tracks, lets users insert their zip code and see a map that contains more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane tracking data. The site also contains global hurricane data from as far back as 1842.

“Knowing more about local hurricane history can help communities better understand their vulnerabilities so they can take steps to be more resilient if a future hurricane strikes.” says David Eslinger, Ph.D., an oceanographer with the NOAA Coastal Services Center and one of the site’s developers.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks website, http://www.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes, includes tropical cyclone data and information on coastal county hurricane strike data through 2011 while also providing links to detailed reports on the life history and effects of U.S. tropical cyclones since 1958.

In addition to the tracks of storms, the site provides insight to the increasing numbers of the U.S. citizens and infrastructure at risk for hurricanes, detailing population changes for U.S. coastal counties from 1900 to 2000. As the population continues to grow, so too has the number of storms with multi-billion dollars in damages to coastal infrastructure and property. Seven of the top 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past eight years, including seventh-ranked Irene last August with $15.8 billion in damages.

The site’s popularity with the public was evident as Hurricane Irene bore down on the U.S. East Coast. Tens of thousands of people used Historical Hurricane Tracks to compare the National Hurricane Center’s projected path of Irene with past storms. User traffic peaked at over 19,000 visits on August 26, the same day Irene swirled off the North Carolina coast heading towards New York City while saturating the East Coast and New England and leaving millions without power.

NOAA Raises Hurricane Season Prediction Despite Expected El Niño

Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico (NOAA)

Updated outlook calls for near- or above-normal Atlantic season

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season—June 1 to November 30—NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:

  • 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher),
  • 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.  See NOAA's full release

July 2012 Marked the Hottest Month on Record for the Contiguous United States

Map highlighting July significant weather events

Drought expands to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48; wildfires consume two million acres

The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the hottest July and the hottest month on record for the nation. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936 when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4°F. The warm July temperatures contributed to a record-warm first seven months of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.

Precipitation totals were mixed during July, with the contiguous U.S. as a whole being drier than average. The nationally-averaged precipitation total of 2.57 inches was 0.19 inch below average. Near-record dry conditions were present for the middle of the nation, with the drought footprint expanding to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48, according to the U.S. Drought MonitorSee full report

NOAA Ship Fairweather Conducting Hydrographic Reconnaissance in the Arctic

NOAA Ship Fairweather

Mission to update measurements dating to the 18th century

NOAA Ship Fairweather begins a 30-day survey mission in the Arctic this week, scheduled to check a sparsely measured 1,500-nautical mile coastal corridor from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, north through the Bering Strait and east to the Canadian border.

The mission will collect needed information to determine NOAA’s future charting survey projects in the Arctic and will cover sea lanes that were last measured by Captain James Cook in 1778.

“Much of Alaska’s coastal area has never had full bottom surveys to measure water depths,” said Cmdr. James Crocker, commanding officer of Fairweather, and chief scientist of the party. “A tanker, carrying millions of gallons of oil, should not be asked to rely on measurements gathered in the 19th century. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what navigators have to do, in too many cases. NOAA is changing that.”

NOAA has made it a priority to update the nautical charts needed by commercial shippers, tankers, passenger vessels, and fishing fleets transiting the Alaskan coastline in ever-greater numbers. In June 2011, Coast Survey issued the Arctic Nautical Charting Plan, a major effort to update Arctic nautical charts for the shipping lanes, approaches, and ports along the Alaskan coast. Full release

Commerce Department Scientists Earn Presidential Honor for Early Career Achievements

OSTP seal

Earlier this week, President Obama announced the 2011 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Six employees from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were among those honored on Monday.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. 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 scientists are recognized not only for their innovative research, but also their demonstrated commitment to community service.