Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report
National Geodetic Survey


Completed Acquisition of More Than 50 Percent of Shoreline in Lower 48 States

Since 2000, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS), in cooperation with other federal partners, has collected data to update approximately 53 percent of the shoreline in the contiguous 48 states as part of the Coastal Mapping Program. This figure represents shoreline that has been acquired photogrammetrically as well as shoreline that has been released to the general public. Shoreline can be viewed or downloaded from the NOAA Shoreline Data Explorer website. The Great Lakes region has the most complete shoreline data, with 100 percent acquired since 2000, followed by the Northeast region with approximately 90 percent coverage.

NGS partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete mapping in certain regions, particularly for the Great Lakes. NGS also incorporated remotely sensed data collected by federal partners thereby furthering the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping mandate of "map once, use many times." The national shoreline provides the critical baseline data for demarcating America’s marine territorial limits, the geographic reference needed to manage coastal resources, and the production of NOAA’s nautical charts. A 2012 socio-economic study estimated that NOAA’s Coastal Mapping Program provides total economic benefits in excess of $200 million per year and provides a return on investment of $5 for every $1 in program cost.

GRAV-D Project Completes Data Collection for More Than 30 Percent of the United States

aerial view of upper Penninsula of Michigan

View of the upper Penninsula of Michigan taken from the NOAA Turbo Commander aircraft for a GRAV-D Project survey during the summer of 2013.

In 2013, the National Geodetic Survey’s Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum (GRAV-D) airborne survey project completed data collection for more than 30 percent of the United States and its territories. Upon completion, the GRAV-D project will allow surveyors and scientists to employ GPS to determine more precise and accurate elevations than currently possible, in less time and with less effort. The current vertical datum is anchored by less accurate, more costly survey monuments, and there are elevation errors ranging from 16 inches to 6 feet relative to sea level.

When GRAV-D is successfully completed and the new elevation system is accessible using the Continuously Operating Reference Station network, these elevation errors will be reduced to just under one inch. Upon completion, $522 million in annual economic benefits could be generated by the implementation of a new gravity-based vertical reference system from GRAV-D, allowing users to determine more precise elevations using GPS, with approximately $240 million saved just from improved floodplain management.

The project is on schedule and within budget to meet the completion goal of 2022—a major accomplishment requiring significant effort, coordination, and collaboration within NOAA and with external partners. Data coverage for 2013 includes Puerto Rico, most of the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast, a large part of Alaska, the Northeast United States, northern California, and southern Florida.

OPUS Projects Software Now Available to the Public

In September 2013, the National Geodetic Survey released a new Online Positioning User Service (OPUS) titled OPUS Projects. OPUS Projects gives users web-based access to simple management and processing tools for survey projects involving multiple sites and occupations (time and duration of surveys).

OPUS Projects presents a new, innovative way to process GPS data for precise positioning applications, potentially saving users time during the "bluebooking" process. Beta versions were met with extremely enthusiastic responses from users. OPUS Projects provides increased functionality and innovation by streamlining how community planners, engineers, and surveyors perform their work and by enabling users to submit data for inclusion in the National Spatial Reference System.

New Data Explorer Application Released

screenshot of the new Data Explorer application

This image shows the geodetic control in San Diego using the new Data Explorer software. NGS designed this software to provide an easy way for surveyors who need geodetic control in their area to tie local surveys to the National Spatial Reference System.

In 2013, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) released a new web application to allow users to easily and quickly view NGS geodetic control across the United States and its territories using Google™ Maps. The NGS Data Explorer map application is an innovative, interactive tool allowing users to explore NOAA’s extensive geodetic control network, which provides the framework for all positioning activities in the nation. This new map application provides access to control mark information including latitude, longitude, elevation, position source, and other available precise positioning data.

The online application presents an easy and efficient way for users to download datasheets directly from a mapping application. Surveyors, engineers, and GIS professionals will benefit from the rapid access to information that the application provides.

Vertical Datum for Main Island of Puerto Rico Completed

In 2013, the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) completed a nearly 20-year effort to define the vertical datum of Puerto Rico (PRVD02). The new elevations establish accurate and reliable heights consistent for the main island of Puerto Rico where the majority of the population resides. The Puerto Rico islands were previously connected to each island’s tidal benchmark, provided by the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services.

Beginning in 1993, NGS kicked off this project to establish the comprehensive vertical datum. The establishment of an enhanced geodetic framework for the Commonwealth will improve mapping, civil engineering, and land surveying projects. With increased precision and accuracy in products such as floodplain maps, warning systems, and hurricane inundation models, the geospatial community can enhance the services they provide to the general population.