NGS Director, Juliana Blackwell, presented at the Alaska Mapping Executive Committee Strategy Planning Meeting in Anchorage this week where she provided a NOAA update, including geospatial framework, shoreline mapping, and the Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum project. The meeting wrapped up with a tour of the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center and a discussion at the Continuously Operating Reference Station.
Building on more than 30 years of scientific studies, NOAA announced a proposal to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to protect additional critical Gulf of Mexico habitat. The plan lays out five expansion scenarios, ranging from no expansion of the 56 square mile sanctuary, to one bringing it to a total of 935 square miles. In NOAA’s preferred scenario, the sanctuary would expand to 383 square miles to include 15 reefs and banks that provide habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, as well as a home to 15 threatened or endangered species of whales, sea turtles, and corals. The public is invited to comment on this proposal from June 10 to August 19, 2016. There will also be five public meetings held in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. Comments collected during this process will be used to develop a final environmental impact statement.
Coast Survey is taking charting discussions to a new level with the cruise line industry, starting by briefing association officials and company representatives last week. During a maritime safety meeting with Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) staff and representatives of major U.S. cruise lines, Coast Survey representatives explained NOAA’s paradigm shift from traditional chart “editions” to continuous chart downloads. Learning how NOAA’s new approach to chart updates can improve transit efficiency was at the forefront of discussions. CLIA and OCS are meeting next month for technical discussions on future charting priorities, crowdsourcing, and chart adequacy.
This week, many NOAA coral reef scientists are at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium to share their research and discuss how scientific findings can advance coral reef sustainability. NOAA presentations take a close look at the managing and monitoring of bleaching events, new research on water quality and reef health, citizen science reef projects, and many other topics. More than 2,500 participants from 70 nations are in attendance.
Acquiring modern data to update the nation’s nautical charts is one of the major challenges to the development of the next generation of navigational products and services. Crowdsourced bathymetry (CSB), a potentially powerful tool for acquiring data, will be examined with a recent beta test release by Rose Point Navigation Systems, a private firm collaborating with Coast Survey and NOAA’s National Centers for Environment Information. The crowdsourced reports help cartographers determine whether a charted area needs to be re-surveyed, or if they can make changes based on the information at hand. Even with very sparse data, cartographers can make improvements to nautical charts. Before releasing the beta test, Coast Survey’s research vessel, Bay Hydro II, collected about 123,000 soundings, over 12 days, to pre-test the efficacy of the Rose Point CSB project.
Staff from Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary joined Point Reyes National Seashore staff to celebrate the completion and official opening of the expanded visitor space at the Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center. The renovated Point Reyes Lighthouse Visitor Center space is an expansion and renovation of the prior space and opens up views to the ocean, provides a place to get out of frequent inclement weather and observe the ocean from a safe space, provides a new space to offer ocean interpretation programs and provides interpretation about the ecosystems and protections offered by ONMS. The park receives over a million visitors a year, and between 250,000-500,000 visitors a year to the Point Reyes headlands. The space will be staffed and maintained by Point Reyes National Seashore.
CO-OPS began a field demonstration of a significantly improved ocean current measurement system providing improved operating efficiency and reduced cost of the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time Systems (PORTS®) network. For 10 years, PORTS® employed a real-time current system consisting of an acoustic current profiling sensor (ADCP) mounted to a U.S. Coast Guard Aids-to-Navigation buoy (ATON). This legacy system connects to a shore station via a radio link for data transmission. The new version (iATON), deployed in South Chesapeake Bay PORTS®, employs the same installation but eliminates the need for a radio link due to a new and improved buoy payload design. This payload upgrade significantly improves real-time data performance and simplifies installation and maintenance requirements. Furthermore, it eliminates the shore station, which makes this system deployable nearly anywhere.
The Emergency Response Division conducted for the first time its aerial observation of oil spills course specifically for personnel with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). An important step in oil spill response is assessing the appearance and distribution of oil spilled on the water. BSEE sought out this course in order to access NOAA's expert instruction in conducting aerial overflights of oil spills, per the U.S. Coast Guard 2014 Incident Management Handbook. NOAA regularly provides this instruction for responders on assessing the appearance and distribution of oil spilled on the water in order to guide the Incident Command as it prioritizes spill response and directs cleanup resources.
A research team from NOAA and the State of Washington is measuring concentrations of marine algae and their associated lipophilic (fat soluble) toxins, which can accumulate in shellfish and cause human illnesses when consumed. These illnesses include diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) and azasparacid shellfish poisoning (AZP). Though research has documented several algal species associated with DSP in Washington waters, distribution and toxicity data is limited. While little is known about the distribution of algal species that produce AZP toxins in the U.S., they have been found in Puget Sound water and shellfish. The team will monitor and map the distribution of toxic algae that produce DSP and AZP toxins and establish and validate a harmful algal bloom early warning system. Ultimately, the research will establish globally accepted protocols for quantifying a suite of lipophilic toxins to enhance state agency biotoxin monitoring programs.
Data from NOAA’s Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) are frequently used for commercial surveying, engineering, and scientific activities. The data must be periodically reprocessed to take advantage of the latest geophysical models. NGS scientists complete this reprocessing, called REPRO, to determine precise movements of the North American and adjacent tectonic plates. The first REPRO, undertaken in 2011, took more than a year to complete. This time, NGS leveraged Cloud computing, making it possible to complete the REPRO process in less than a month, despite the project having grown by more than 50 percent. Once the results are analyzed, improved CORS coordinates and velocities will be released for public use.
From 1996-2010, new coastal county development topped 5,725 square miles, an area larger than the State of Connecticut. The Gulf and Southeast regions accounted for almost half of this newly developed area (47 percent), and the Northeast was the region that lost the most square miles (553) of forestland to new development. These discoveries and more are revealed in a story map highlighting land cover changes linked to population growth in U.S. coastal urban areas. The map combines U.S. Census Bureau data with data from NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program to uncover local, regional, and national development trends.
CO-OPS introduced a seasonal High Tide Bulletin that provides region-specific information about where the highest of high tides will have the most impact during a perigean spring tide. The inaugural bulletin covers the perigean spring tide from June 3-7. CO-OPS will issue the bulletins seasonally during perigean spring tides.
NGS and its Great Lakes partners hosted the annual Height Modernization partner meeting in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. This year’s meeting was held in conjunction with the Upper Midwest Geospatial Conference. In addition to presenters who were in attendance to represent their respective states, state partners from around the country made presentations via webinar.
OR&R and NOAA’s Habitat Conservation Restoration Center led a tabletop drill and data management training for the Alaska Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) and Restoration trustees. The event focused on collecting ephemeral data (data that is transitory, or exists only briefly) in the event of an oil spill. The trustees determined and prioritized resources at risk, developed conceptual models for exposure and injury, and drafted ephemeral data collection plans for chosen resource categories. In a field exercise, trustees practiced implementing ephemeral data collection guidelines, recording field data, using electronic data capture, working with data managers on data intake and processing, accessing data through ORR’s Data Integration, Visualization, Exploration, and Reporting (DIVER) tool, and visualizing data through OR&R’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA).
While tsunamis are more common in the Pacific, they can strike any coast at any time, and even small tsunamis can be very dangerous. NOAA's fast-draw video illustrates in less than two minutes why people need to stay alert to tsunami warnings, practice safety routes, and stay out of the danger zone. In addition to OCM, project partners include the International Tsunami Information Center, NOAA Tsunami Program, and NOAA Office of Communications and External Affairs.
Port Vila, in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, was identified as the world’s most exposed city to natural disasters, according to the 2015 Natural Hazards Risk Atlas. A technical exchange between NOAA and the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geo-Hazards Department helped the island develop a strategy for a marine climate early warning system. Vanuatu now can better access data sets, analyze data, and identify marine indicators and thresholds that inform the early warning system. The partners also identified ways to reduce impacts to coral reef ecosystems and dependent communities, and how to increase food security during climate-related disasters. The results will be used to update the country’s El Niño Southern Oscillation Handbook, which previously focused on the agricultural sector.