The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) collects and distributes oceanographic observations and predictions to ensure safe, efficient, and environmentally sound maritime commerce. CO-OPS provides water level and coastal current oceanographic products, measures and predicts tides throughout the nation, and is responsible for disseminating this information to the public.
CO-OPS highlights from fiscal year 2010 include:
- Newest PORTS® Study Estimates Lower Columbia River PORTS® Saves $6.4 Million
The lower Columbia River area receives an estimated annual economic benefit of $6.4 million in savings and direct income from the operation of the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®), according to a NOAA-sponsored study released in June 2010. The report details the economic benefits of the navigational decision-support system, which is operational at 20 locations throughout the United States. PORTS® is a decision-support tool that improves the safety and efficiency of maritime commerce and coastal resource management through the integration of real-time environmental observations, forecasts, and other geospatial information. PORTS® measures and disseminates observations and predictions of water levels, currents, salinity, and meteorological parameters (e.g., winds, atmospheric pressure, and air and water temperatures) that mariners need to navigate safely. Economic benefits results from increased cargo carried per transit, reduced delays, reduced risk of groundings and collisions, and improved environmental planning and analysis, including hazardous spill response. The information made available by PORTS® results in economic benefits because it is used by decision makers to make choices that affect economic wellbeing.
- NOAA National Water-level Stations Strengthened, Optimizing New Technology and Meteorological Sensors
In 2010, CO-OPS strengthened six existing National Water Level Observation Network stations along the nation’s coastline at Apalachicola, Florida; Cedar Key, Florida; Fort Meyers, Florida; Lake Worth, Florida; U.S. Coast Guard Station Hatteras, North Carolina; and Toke Point, Washington. Strengthened water-level stations in Florida were designed by engineers from CO-OPS to withstand the storm surge and waves of a Category 4 hurricane. In addition, one Great Lakes station underwent major reconstruction at Holland, Michigan. During the last few years, CO-OPS has been engaged in strengthening several of its permanent water-level stations on the Gulf Coast to collect water-level and meteorological data through severe hurricanes and storms, when the data are critically needed to save lives and property. This is just one of several station-strengthening efforts by CO-OPS and its partner agencies and is an investment that will pay dividends for decades into the future.
Also, CO-OPS continued its two-year effort to add meteorological sensors to National Water Level Observation Network stations, with 20 stations being upgraded in fiscal year 2010. The upgrades included the installation of wind, barometric pressure, and air temperature sensors. Water level and meteorological data have long been key components of coastal decision making before, during, and after major storm events. Collecting data through severe hurricanes and storms is critical for developing vulnerability assessments, providing more accurate marine weather and flood forecasts, planning for and implementing evacuations, determining when to open and close locks, and facilitating the reopening of ports.
- NOS Provides Critical Support to Tsunami Warning
On February 27, 2010, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake off the coast of Chile caused a basin-wide tsunami. NOS tide stations operated by CO-OPS measured the event along the West Coast of the U.S., in southern Alaska, and throughout Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, providing critical information for tsunami forecasts, warnings, observations, and models. Observations from tide stations and buoys were measured for several hours, as the tsunami propagated across the Pacific. Tsunamis pose a significant threat to coastlines around the world. NOAA has primary responsibility for providing tsunami warnings to the nation and a leadership role in tsunami observations and research. Water-level observations at coastal tide stations comprise a critical component of an effective tsunami warning system.
- NOAA Completes Current Meter Survey Projects in Alaska, Connecticut, and New York
CO-OPS conducted several major tidal current surveys in fiscal year 2010 in response to user requests. The data collected with help update tidal current predictions critical to safe navigation and other applications that are published annually in the U.S. Tidal Current Tables. During fiscal year 2010, CO-OPS oversaw the deployment of Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP) along the Aleutian Island chain surrounding the island of Unalaska, Alaska, including islands and critical shipping passages such as Unimak Pass, Akutan Pass, Unalga Pass, and Unalga Island, as well as the approaches to the Port of Dutch Harbor. To better understand the circulation of Cross Sound, Alaska, CO-OPS deployed current meters across the entrances of Icy Strait, Glacier Bay, and the Gulf of Alaska. Data are also being collected at key navigation passages north and south of the Inian Islands where current speeds can reach up to eight knots. Current meter surveys also took place in the waters of Long Island Sound and its tributaries in New York and Connecticut.
The current survey projects will support navigation and the operation of deep draft vessels in the areas and will establish new stations that have been identified as important for the nation’s commercial and recreational transportation systems. For example, the Port of Dutch Harbor is frequented by both national and international commercial vessels transiting the Great Circle Route from Seattle to Northern Asia. The collected current data will provide the information necessary to enhance safe and efficient navigation, resource protection, and incident prevention and response. Updated predictions for all occupied stations can be found on the CO-OPS website.
- NOAA Installs Tide Stations for VDatum Program in Alaska, Maine, and Massachusetts CO-OPS installed temporary tide stations to collect bathymetric and topographic data in support of the NOS Vertical Datum Transformation Tool (VDatum) program in Alaska, Maine, and Massachusetts in fiscal year 2010. VDatum is a software tool developed by NOS for transforming bathymetric/topographic data among 36 vertical datums. The ability to properly reference data to multiple vertical datums is critical to a variety of applications in coastal areas. Applications that benefit from VDatum include inundation modeling (storm surge, tsunami, and sea-level rise impacts), ecosystem modeling, and coastal zone management. CO-OPS, the National Geodetic Survey, and the Office of Coast Survey actively support and maintain the NOS VDatum Program. NOS will develop a VDatum model for coastal Maine and Massachusetts in fiscal year 2011 that will allow seamless data products across the land-water interface.
- New Sea Level Publication Now Available
CO-OPS has issued a new sea level publication, "Sea Level Variations of the United States, 1854-2006," with updated local sea level trends for 128 locations in the United States. The report follows the format of the previous report, "Sea Level Variations of the United States 1854- 1999"; however, the updated report includes seven additional years of data and presents results for 12 additional stations. When calculating local sea level trends, the data range was expanded to analyze stations with a 30-year data range. The previous report used only a 25-year data range. The longer data range reduces the uncertainty in the trend estimation. Also provided in the updated report is a key recommendation to more frequently update datums in areas where sea level has changed rapidly over a five-year period and recommendations for improvement of NOAA tide prediction products by incorporating analysis of seasonal variations over the long-term record. With over 150 years of continuous sea level information at its oldest coastal sea level station, CO-OPS is the primary source of local sea level information for the United States. Accurate local sea level information is critical for informed coastal planning, management, and decision making.
In addition, CO-OPS will deliver a technical standards document for vertical control for sea level rise assessments.
- NOAA Implements New and Improved Hydrodynamic Model
CO-OPS implemented new and improved operational coastal models in the Great Lakes. The hydrodynamic models provide mariners, port managers, and emergency response teams with present and future conditions of water levels, currents, temperature, and salinity. The hydrodynamic "nowcast" (for present conditions) and "forecast" (for future conditions) products are generated by a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model that uses Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System data and National Weather Service forecast products to predict conditions at locations throughout the United States. The information assists port managers and shippers in making decisions regarding maximum tonnage and passage times without compromising safety.
- Tide Information Critical for Port Arthur, TX, Oil Spill Response
CO-OPS and the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) assisted the U.S. Coast Guard with their efforts to determine the reopening of the Sabine-Neches Waterway after two vessels collided, spilling an estimated 450,000 gallons of oil on January 24, 2010. CO-OPS provided real-time data from their new Sabine-Neches Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) station to OR&R scientists who inputted this data into SHIO, OR&R’s tide prediction tool. This information helped the Coast Guard formulate a plan for a limited opening of the waterway. The U.S. Coast Guard used the data to determine when it was safe to open the oil booms and allow vessel traffic to pass. Some rough estimates of the economic impacts of the waterway being closed were over $3,000,000 in schedule delay losses for barges and over $2,000,000 for deep draft vessels. When accidents occur, PORTS® information is critical for rapid response and damage mitigation.