CO-OPS Chesapeake Facility Hosts U.S. Senate Staff
This week, the CENTER FOR OPERATIONAL OCEANOGRAPHIC PRODUCTS AND SERVICES (CO-OPS) hosted staff from the offices of U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine at its facility in Chesapeake, VA, which is the hub of its field office division. The staffers toured the facility and were very interested in all that CO-OPS does to make high-quality oceanographic measurements. They were briefed on the rich history of CO-OPS, the multiple uses of CO-OPS data and products, and CO-OPS’s long-term standards for installing and maintaining stations.
Charleston STEM Event Draws 16,000 Students and Families
The Charleston STEM Festival, which hosted 16,000 students and families this year, is one of 12 community events nationwide supported by the Alfred P. Slone Foundation to increase awareness of the role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in society. NOAA Education and NOAA Exploration provided educational materials from the line offices that all call Charleston home—NOS, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Weather, NOAA Research, and NOAA Satellites. NATIONAL CENTERS FOR COASTAL OCEAN SERVICES (NCCOS)scientists provided hands-on activities to observe and identify phytoplankton and zooplankton collected in a plankton tow off the banks of the Ashley River. This raised awareness of NOAA citizen science offered through the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network and encouraged new participants in the greater Charleston area.
Estuary Education Website Gets a Fresh New Look
Estuaries are invaluable resources for coastal dwellers of fin, fur, and feather. For people, these ecosystems offer protection, recreation, and a wealth of learning opportunities. Education coordinators from NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserves and the Office for Coastal Management released a revamped estuary education website where educators and estuary enthusiasts can find a variety of resources, including specially developed curricula, videos, teacher training workshops, real-time data, and opportunities to volunteer. The fresh, bright layout and user-friendly navigation will help people easily find estuary information and share the wonders of the reserves with others.
Helping the ‘Parking Situation’ at Port Fourchon, Louisiana
If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic outside a mall at Christmas, you know the importance of adequate parking. It’s no different around some of the nation’s busiest ports, except that expanded ship “parking” is needed 24/7. Coast Survey recently helped find an area suitable for a new anchorage outside of Port Fourchon, LA, using images and a report from a contracted hydrographic survey. The survey data shows a fairly clean area with one well-defined hazard that is navigationally manageable. Earlier this month, OCS transmitted the report to Port Fourchon, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Port Fourchon currently services more than 90 percent of the Gulf of Mexico’s deep-water oil production, with more than 400 large supply vessels traversing the port’s channels each day. The port's ability to “park” so many vessels has become a significant issue.
Updates to National Spatial Reference System
NGS released the latest issue of its popular constituent newsletter, NSRS Modernization News, which focuses on key decisions made both internally, as well as in conjunction with the Canadian Geodetic Survey. Specifically, these decisions involve updates to the National Spatial Reference System. A comprehensive white paper outlining the technical details of these decisions is in draft and will be ready for NGS’s upcoming 2017 Geospatial Summit in April. Further details will also be available on the NGS website and through NGS’s email listserv.
Projected Effects of Ocean Acidification in the California Current
A NOAA-supported study projects that Dungeness crab and some commercial finfish species living on the sea floor may decline in future years due to increased ocean acidification in the California Current. The estimates were based on computer models forecasting changes in the California Current ocean ecosystem, which includes an expected rise in summer ocean acidification of 50 percent. Other marine organisms, including zooplankton, seabirds, marine mammals, and fish that live in the water column, are expected to be less affected. Scientists used global projections of CO2 over the next 50 years, chemical and physical ocean data, and the ecology of 75 species to project the future relative abundance of each, along with potential economic impacts. Ocean acidification is expected to directly affect certain food-source species within the marine food web that are eaten by some commercially valuable species, including Dungeness crab, rockfish, and sole.
Public Comment Period on Proposed National Marine Sanctuaries
Americans have an opportunity to participate in the designation of two new national marine sanctuaries that will preserve more than 200 years of U.S. history. Through March 31, 2017, the public is invited to weigh in on the proposals for sanctuaries in Wisconsin and Maryland that would protect nationally significant shipwrecks from the 1800s, World War I, and maritime battlegrounds. If designated, the two sites would be the first new sanctuaries since 2000. Both potential sanctuaries were proposed to NOAA through its sanctuary nomination process and received broad community and bipartisan support. National marine sanctuaries are a type of marine protected area managed for the conservation of their natural and cultural resources and the promotion of sustainable recreation and tourism.
NOAA Plays Key Role on IMO Subcommittee
NOAA supported the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Pollution Preparedness and Response (PPR) Subcommittee in London. NOAA’s role was to focus on training courses for pollution response. OR&R chaired the drafting group of 16 nations and numerous affiliated organizations, which finalized a multi-year effort to prepare the training courses for publication. The group also gathered comments that will benefit the U.S. Coast Guard in finalizing its Sub-sea Dispersant Guidelines paper, which it hopes to present for final approval at the PPR 5 meeting in 2018. There was also a group discussion of Norway’s proposal to develop an implementation guideline document for the IMO Hazardous and Noxious Substance protocol. NOAA also made an informative presentation on its soon-to-be-released GNOME 2 tool, and on CAFE.
California Youth Science Program Produces Sound Research
LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) is a citizen science program that encourages the next generation of scientists, decision makers, and policy makers among California youth. LiMPETS monitors coastal ecosystems to provide publicly accessible long-term data to inform marine resource managers and the scientific community. At the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, participating students presented their research. At the Beyond the Golden Gate Research Symposium, LiMPETS collected data that demonstrated a correlation between El Niño events and recruitment of sand crabs in San Francisco. The sound science collected by the students can be found in products like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report, and helped establish a baseline of key indicator species for the new system of California Marine Protected Areas.
Deep-Sea Coral Initiative in the Southeast: First-Year Successes
In 2016, NOAA’s Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program launched a four-year initiative to study deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems across the Southeast—a region that includes U.S. federal waters in the South Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Led by NCCOS, the initiative is a cross-line office effort that includes personnel from NOS, NOAA Fisheries, and NOAA Research, and aims to collect scientific information to manage and conserve deep-sea corals throughout the region. Fieldwork for the initiative commenced in August 2016 with two successful expeditions that surveyed deep-water banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico to collect information pertinent to the proposed expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, and deep-sea canyons off North Carolina to support regional characterizations of canyon ecosystems. New species and seafloor communities were documented in both regions.
Marine Debris Program Funds Removal of Long-Lived F/V Western
On December 21, 2016, the fishing vessel F/V Western was removed from Coos Bay, Oregon, where it sank in January 2015. The Oregon State Marine Board managed the project in collaboration with the Oregon Department of State Land and with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant. Billeter Marine, a local salvage contractor, conducted the removal, brought the wreck to land, and disposed of it. This was the end of the journey for the wood-hulled vessel, built in 1934, that spent its early years trolling for salmon in Alaska and had sunk twice before and been refloated! The boat’s deteriorating condition and the location where it sank for the third time required removal to prevent both environmental harm and risks to other vessels in the area.
New Sensor Aids Safe Navigation in South Carolina
CO-OPS installed a new sensor on the Arthur Ravanel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, SC, which will improve the safety of mariners transiting the area. The sensor’s microwave radar air gap system will accurately measure clearance under the bridge, allowing safe passage in and out of nearby seaports. The sensor is part of the Charleston Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS®).
The Power of Pairing Hazard Resilience and Smart Growth
Coastal communities that combine smart growth and hazard mitigation approaches can boost community safety, ecosystem health, economic vitality, and resilience to hazardous events. That’s the take-home message of a Digital Coast case study featuring Kinston, North Carolina. After suffering repeated flooding from multiple hurricanes, the City of Kinston relocated residents from inside the floodplain to higher, safer community locations while also restoring floodplain functions. After the first big storm following relocation, the city saved approximately $6 million in avoided flood losses, and in 2016, many residents said the strategy reduced the harmful impacts of Hurricane Matthew.
Coast Survey Deputy Selected as Vice Chair of MesoAmerican Commission
The United States, represented by the OCS deputy director, will serve for the next two years as vice chair of the MesoAmerican-Caribbean Sea Hydrographic Commission (MACHC) of the International Hydrographic Organization. During the two-year term, the U.S. and Mexico (organization chair) will advance the region’s technical cooperation and training in hydrographic surveying, marine cartography, and nautical information. Of special importance, from the U.S. perspective for supporting the maritime industry, is eliminating duplication and filling gaps for electronic and paper charts in the regional charting scheme. The officer election was conducted during December’s MACHC meeting in Brazil. By providing hemispheric leadership in navigational charting, NOAA is helping to provide more timely, accurate, and relevant data products and services for mariners who travel through international waters on their way to or from U.S. ports.
Sanctuary Participates in 117th Annual Christmas Bird Count
Several conservation agencies use the data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, but Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary takes it one step further. Since birds are easier to observe and count than the food they eat, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) can provide a snapshot but comparable view of fish populations that live deep below the ocean’s surface. While most surveys are on land, the sanctuary and the Stellwagen Sanctuary Seabird Stewards completed surveys at sea aboard the sanctuary's R/V Auk. The December 2016 survey results included three times the number of common murres and four times the number of razorbills compared to last year’s CBC, but did not observe northern fulmars or shearwaters, both species that were observed in 2015. The Stellwagen Bank CBC covers a 15-mile circle that includes the southern end of the Bank and a portion of the northern tip of Cape Cod.
Improvements to NOAA's Online Positioning User Service (OPUS)
NGS recently upgraded OPUS, which provides simplified access to high-accuracy National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) coordinates, to improve results in areas where Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) are distributed unequally. By considering both base station direction and proximity, OPUS now selects CORS more appropriately for Rapid-Static (RS) GPS data processing. This will increase OPUS-RS availability from 93 percent to 98 percent in the central United States, and should improve positioning accuracy under more challenging atmospheric conditions. OPUS allows users who upload a GPS data file collected with a survey-grade GPS receiver to obtain an NSRS position via email. This latest improvement provides enhanced NSRS access for users, advancing NGS’s mission “to define, maintain, and provide access to the NSRS to meet our nation's economic, social, and environmental needs.”