In summer 2017, the NOAA harmful algal bloom forecast in Lake Erie moved out of the experimental research phase and was incorporated as an official NOAA forecast. The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) issued NOAA’s first official HAB forecast bulletin for Lake Erie on July 3. The transition is a culmination of years of research and includes dedicated resources for maintaining the forecast system, technical support, and backup servers. Some cyanobacteria blooms can grow rapidly and produce toxins that cause harm to animal life and people. The bulletins provide analysis of the location of these blooms, as well as three-day forecasts of transport, mixing, scum formation, and bloom decline. During the Lake Erie HAB season, which typically begins in July, CO-OPS emails bulletins to subscribers twice weekly. Coastal decision makers are using NOAA's forecasts to help their communities understand the timing of, and potential impacts from, these events.
The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) produced its annual update of the state of coastal high-tide flooding. The report showed that several cities experienced more than 30 days of daily flooding from May 2016 – April 2017, including Wilmington, NC (84 days); Charleston, SC (50 days); and Honolulu, HI (45 days), due to a combination of low-lying coastal topography and high sea levels. The report also showed that in most locations, the number of days with high-tide flooding exceeded national historic trends established over recent decades. It also showed that annual trends are accelerating in 19 of the 28 locations examined. Decades ago, coastal flooding in the U.S. was almost exclusively driven by large storms; in many locations nowadays, however, flooding often occurs at high tide with little or no contribution from the weather. Due to the possible development of El Niño conditions, projections for high-tide flooding from May 2017 – April 2018 are 25 percent higher on average than trend values at several locations on both the East and West Coasts. CO-OPS provides seasonal outlooks of when and where high-tide flooding may occur through its High Tide Bulletin.
The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) worked with partners to enhance safety of life and property decisions made every day by mariners and coastal communities. CO-OPS and the U.S. Coast Guard placed a new Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTS®) in Matagorda Bay, TX, to help mariners navigate strong currents as they come into port. Charleston PORTS® added an air gap sensor to the Ravenel Bridge to help ships measure the clearance between the bridge and the water surface. Delaware Bay PORTS® added an air gap sensor to the Ben Franklin Bridge. Chesapeake Bay North PORTS® and Delaware River PORTS® added salinity sensors used by the Delaware River Basin Commission to protect the drinking water of more than a million people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. CO-OPS worked with local pilots and the National Weather Service to create the Tampa Bay Marine Channel Forecast, an online tool that gives vessel operators transiting through Tampa Bay access to critical oceanographic and meteorological forecasts. Ship pilots will no longer have to check multiple sources for information as they move up the navigation channel, and will, for the first time, get a visibility forecast allowing them to anticipate fog conditions.
The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) completed its largest tidal current survey for the waters around Puget Sound, WA. NOAA uses the observations collected during these surveys to provide commercial and recreational mariners with timely tidal current predictions, which they rely on for safe navigation. NOAA periodically resurveys various coastal and estuarine locations to provide the most accurate predictions possible. Survey locations are selected based on user and navigation needs, oceanographic analyses, and the age of the data. NOAA tidal current predictions for Puget Sound are presently generated from limited amounts of data collected in the 1930s–1960s. Advancements in measurement and computing technologies significantly improve the predictions’ accuracy. Tidal current predictions can be accessed online for thousands of coastal and estuarine locations.