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Arctic ERMA

Office of Response and Restoration

Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management

Oil Spill Recovery Institute

University of New Hampshire

Award-Winning Visualization Tool to be Expanded for Arctic Region

March 12, 2012
screenshot of Arctic ERMA online tool

Arctic ERMA provides emergency planners and responders with a spatial interface to explore sea ice concentrations in the region.

NOAA and partners are expanding the Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA®) to include the Arctic. The presence of this tool in the Arctic region will enable responders to prepare for possible oil spills and climate change.

What is ERMA?

ERMA is an online mapping tool that integrates both static and real-time data, such as NOAA's Environmental Sensitivity Index maps, ship locations, weather, and ocean currents, in a centralized, easy-to-use format for environmental responders and decision makers.

ERMA enables a user to quickly and securely upload, manipulate, export, and display spatial data, resulting in high-impact visualizations of relevant response-related data and information. The tool provides users with access to relevant data for incident drills, planning, response, damage assessment, and restoration as well as for other events and natural disasters.

Why the Arctic?

As Arctic sea ice continues to contract and thin, energy exploration and transportation activities (e.g., ship traffic) are expected to increase in the region, escalating the risk of oil spills and accidents. The role of NOAA and its interagency partners to expand ERMA to the Artic will combine the available information needed for an effective emergency response.

In an emergency situation, ERMA is equipped with near real-time oceanographic observations and weather data from NOAA along with critical information other federal and state response agencies. Responders can further customize the tool with environmental, logistical, and operational data such as fishery closure areas, resources-at-risk maps, and mariner notices, depending on the need.

When operational, Arctic ERMA will contain information such as the extent and concentration of sea ice, locations of ports and pipelines, and vulnerable environmental resources for spill responders to make rapid, science-informed response decisions.


Arctic ERMA is a partnership with the Office of Response and Restoration, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, Oil Spill Recovery Institute, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and University of New Hampshire. ERMA is currently available for six geographic regions and is under development in the Arctic. ERMA is the same interactive online mapping tool used by federal responders during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Arctic ERMA is slated to launch in summer 2012.