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Integrated Ocean Observing System

U.S.IOOS in Action

podcastWhat is IOOS? Diving Deeper (audio podcast)

podcastWhat Are the Benefits of Ocean Observing Data? Diving Deeper (audio podcast)

Integrated Ocean Observing System

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) serves as the nation’s eye on our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. IOOS delivers the data and information needed to increase understanding of our coastal waters so decision makers can act to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment. These data are critical for everyday benefits – including understanding the impacts of climate change, transporting goods in and out of ports safely and efficiently, and protecting people from eating contaminated seafood. 

IOOS is a federal, regional, private sector, and academic partnership that tracks, predicts, manages, and adapts to changes in our marine environments. There are thousands of tools – from satellites above Earth to sensors below the water – that continuously collect ocean and coastal data. IOOS is the link that connects all these data. IOOS is expanding sources of data and increasing access to existing data to save users time and money. We are adopting and adapting standards and protocols – such as whether temperature is recorded in Celsius or Fahrenheit – in order to make data easier to use.

Integrated ocean information is now available in near real time, as well as retrospectively. Easier and better access to this information is improving our ability to do many things, such as:

Predicting Severe Weather

Compatible, easily accessible data from multiple sources are increasing understanding of how oceans drive storms to enable earlier, more accurate weather predictions. This allows people to get to safety before disaster strikes. For example, Northeast fishermen use IOOS weather and water data to make informed decisions about when it is safe to head to sea, while Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources relies on IOOS-derived shoreline maps to plan for and respond to storm surge, flash floods, and sea-level rise.

Forecasting Hazards

Integrated ocean data are enhancing scientific ability to forecast environmental changes and hazardous events, so decision makers can take targeted action, such as closing a beach to avoid illnesses caused by blooms of harmful algae. Hourly ocean temperatures, currents, and other data also alert West Coast oyster growers and East Coast shellfish harvesters to conditions that trigger toxic algae outbreaks, which can make shellfish unsafe to eat.

Improving Search and Rescue

IOOS is introducing state-of-the-art technology that allows exciting new abilities to track ocean currents in near real time, thus aiding search and rescue crews in mapping the probable path of people lost at sea.

Monitoring Water Quality

Combined marine data will improve the ability of coastal communities to monitor water quality and protect public health with early warnings. The Great Lakes region puts this effort into action by maintaining and expanding a network of water quality monitoring buoys that report water temperature, conductivity, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. These data are used to create E. coli predictions for swimming beaches, among other things.

Optimizing Marine Operations

IOOS provides tools mariners can use to optimize shipping routes for increased fuel efficiency and faster deliveries. For example, IOOS paired currents data from radar systems with existing wave data into a user-friendly Web site providing tankers with up-to-date sea conditions as they enter the Port of Long Beach, California, one of our nation’s busiest ports. This information reduces the risk of accidents in such high-traffic areas.

Enhancing Oil Spill Response

IOOS enables tracking of oil spills and other pollutants so responders can minimize harmful impacts. San Francisco Bay’s Cosco Busan oil spill in November of 2007 is one example. Hourly information on surface currents provided emergency personnel with spill location and flow direction to enhance response time.

Minimizing Rip Current Deaths

Rip currents cause an estimated 100 deaths per year. Scientists in the Carolinas and Hawaii are working to increase the number of wave observations and advance wave forecasts to improve warnings and safety alerts.

Boosting Homeland Security

Ocean observations can detect and track ships to improve security of our ports and harbors. IOOS is installing receivers on buoys in the Southeast to increase vessel tracking coverage. Wind, wave, current, and tide data are critical for detection in today’s maritime domain awareness system.

Predicting Human Health

Ocean observations are improving scientific ability to detect and mitigate outbreaks of disease and other harmful conditions. For example, researchers recently developed a system for predicting cholera outbreaks using satellite monitoring of marine environments. Data showed that epidemics follow seasonal increases in sea temperatures and phytoplankton levels. The tiny organisms increase in number as water temperatures rise and bring the cholera pathogen to drinking water supplies. This finding could lead to early warnings for similar ocean health threats that are common in the United States.


NOAA has participated in the development of IOOS since its beginnings in the late 1990s.  In February 2007, the NOAA IOOS Program was created to "lead the integration of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes observing capabilities, in collaboration with Federal and non-Federal partners, to maximize access to data and generation of information products, inform decision making, and promote economic, environmental, and social benefits to our nation and the world."