In December 1866, the U.S. Coast Survey (NOAA's predecessor agency) began printing tide tables as an independent, annual publication. The first edition, for the year 1867, separated the predictions for the Atlantic coast and Pacific coast of the United States into two publications and gave only the daily high tides. Low tides were added in later years, as were tidal current predictions. In 2015, NOAA issued its 150th edition.
In 1966, there was a major breakthrough in tide gauge technology with the introduction of the Analog-to-Digital (ADR) tide gauge. The ADR’s punch paper provided a computer compatible data recording, compared with earlier analog gauges which drew lines on a paper chart. The ADR paper tapes were read by an optical reader and translated onto nine-track magnetic tape for loading onto a computer system for processing. ADR gauges were used until 2003, when NOAA had fully transitioned to the Next Generation Water Level Measurement System.
The U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey used tide prediction machine No. 2, fondly referred to as "Old Brass Brains," to predict tides from 1912-1965. It was the first machine made to simultaneously compute the height of the tide and the times of high and low waters. Today, tide predictions are made on electronic computers.
The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services manages the National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON). NWLON provides basic water-level information to determine U.S. coastal marine boundaries and to create nautical charts. It also supports climate monitoring activities, tsunami and storm surge warning systems, coastal processes, and tectonic research. This NWLON station supports the Sabine-Neches, Texas, Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System.
The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services manages the National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON). NWLON provides basic water-level information to determine U.S. coastal marine boundaries and to create nautical charts. On September 9, 2011, a new water level station on Lake Michigan in Holland, Michigan, was declared officially operational. The new station, a replacement for an older structure, was a joint upgrade effort by NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District office. The new station is expected to provide modernized and highly-reliable water level data to the Great Lakes community for the next 50+ years.
The Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or 'PORTS,' operates in 20 ports around the country, including along the lower Mississippi. PORTS provides up-to-the-minute information on tides, currents, salinity, water and air temperature, atmospheric pressure, and wind (speed, gusts, and direction). This information helps mariners time the movement of their vessels -- from the smallest recreational craft to the most massive oil tankers -- through more than 50 U.S. seaports and waterways. Port authorities, local officials, and marine pilot associations also use PORTS to determine if a waterway is open and safe for navigation.
There are nearly 3,500,000 square nautical miles of our nation's waters to monitor, understand, and chart. The Office of Coast Survey evaluates the 500,000 square natuical miles that are navigationally significant. Then, each spring, hydrographic field parties set out in vessels to survey sections of the 43,000 square nautical miles deemed to be critical by the Coast Survey's evaluation. Sometimes teams break loose from normal surveying to respond to disasters such as hurricanes.
Seven current meter platforms arrive by truck for the Miami Current Survey Project. The project originated in 2007 after requests for up-to-date current information were received from multiple navigational community and marine resource users. The current survey project supports navigation and the operation of deep draft vessels in the area and additionally benefits various state and federal agencies.
NOAA's National Geodetic Survey and Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services are collaborating with the National Estuarine Research Reserve System to establish and monitor coastal land elevations in relation to local sea level throughout the reserve system. This marker from the Chesapeake Bay Reserve in Virginia is part of the required spatial framework needed to establish the reserves as 'sentinel' sites for measuring and monitoring the impacts of climate change on estuarine systems. The inscription reads: 'National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Estuarine Research Reserve System; National Geodetic Survey.'
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in New York Harbor. The Thomas Jefferson is one of a fleet of research and survey vessels used by NOAA to improve our understanding of the marine environment. The ship is home ported in Norfolk, Virginia, and primarily operates along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The primary mission of the Thomas Jefferson is to conduct hydrographic surveys for updating NOAA's nautical charts.
NOAA Ship Fairweather in Kachemak Bay, Alaska. The Fairweather is designed and outfitted primarily for conducting hydrographic surveys in support of nautical charting, but the ship is capable of many other missions in support of NOAA programs. The Fairweather is equipped with the latest in hydrographic survey technology — multi-beam survey systems; high-speed, high-resolution side-scan sonar; position and orientation systems; hydrographic survey launches; and an on-board data-processing server. The Fairweather is named for Mt. Fairweather in southeast Alaska, which is the highest peak in the Fairweather Range -- the tallest coastal range on Earth.
Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services National Current Observation Program conducted several major surveys of tidal currents in response to user requests. Data has been collected in southeast Alaska since 2001 to help update tidal current predictions critical to safe navigation and other applications that are published annually in the U.S. Tidal Current Tables. Here, scientists deploy current meter buoys and anchors used for the surveys.
A Global Positioning System setup on a benchmark on the top of the NOAA Sentinel at Shell Beach, Louisiana. NOAA Sentinels are water-level observing stations which have been strengthened to deliver real-time storm tide data during severe coastal events. Built to withstand category four hurricanes, these structures maintain an incredible presence, given their size and stature, along the Gulf coast.