The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System

How IOOS® is vital to advancing our priorities.

Here at the National Ocean Service (NOS), three priorities guide our wide range of products and services: coastal preparedness, response, recovery, and resiliency; advancing coastal intelligence; and place-based conservation. The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) plays a key role in meeting those priorities.

Advancing coastal intelligence supports NOAA’s overall delivery of environmental intelligence. “Environmental intelligence” refers not only to the collection and analysis of data, but also the translation of that data into information that decision makers can use to make good choices. The underpinning of coastal intelligence is continuous monitoring and information to enable critical safety and economic decisions along our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes on a range of issues from weather to climate, from commerce to national security and ecosystem services. And just like IOOS, the idea is to be nimble to respond to natural and manmade crises.

Observing underpins not only coastal intelligence, but also coastal preparedness and resiliency. Coastal areas provide us with a place to create livelihoods. We know that, unfortunately, devastating storms like Sandy will continue to occur and can happen anywhere along the nation's coasts. Instead of higher seawalls and breakwaters, those barriers should be mixed with natural lands, dunes, salt marshes, and seagrass that provide a protective layer that can absorb wave and wind energy. NOS plays a key role in this approach by providing the best available observations, resources, products, and services to communities to plan in times of calm, before the storm. Making changes for resiliency along our nation’s coast and improving coastal intelligence will also inherently support the third NOS priority, place-based conservation.

Special places are critical to the economic health of our nation and our people. Communities rely on dollars spent on activities such as recreation and tourism. NOS works to conserve coastal places through our coastal management and place-based conservation programs. IOOS has a role here, too. Observing, data management, and models and forecasts provide information needed to make decisions on which areas need what kinds of protection and to help forecast issues that may be emerging so we can act to mitigate harmful outcomes.

What NOS does is all about protecting property and the environment. And we need the right tools and information to do it. Making decisions about our oceans and coasts must be based on solid, scientific information. Within the United States or globally, the integration of observations into usable products and services is critical. Working within NOAA, nationally through programs like U.S. IOOS, and internationally through the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and Group on Earth Observations (GEO) allows us to systematically take the pulse of the ocean we rely on. But we have more work to do.

Our oceans and coasts are relying on NOS and IOOS partners to continue to improve the technology, the data collection, and the tools and products so that we can preserve our special places, protect our people and property from severe weather, and keep that pulse on what is happening. What we do is critically important to everything we hold dear. We do this not just for us, but for our children and our grandchildren. I’m proud to be part of these efforts.

Holly A. Bamford, Ph.D.
Assistant Administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal
Zone Management, National Ocean Service