Observing our Oceans & Coasts

NOS images

Our planet is constantly changing. Right now, it is changing quickly and in ways that are impacting society. Despite this fact, our oceans, which cover more then 70 percent of our planet, remain poorly understood. And much of what we do know about the oceans is fragmented.

In fiscal year 2008, NOS made great strides in collecting observations to improve our knowledge of ocean and coastal changes. Highlights from 2008 include:

  • Providing, through the NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Program (part of NOS), new tools and resources to enhance the development of standards for data management and communications. IOOS partners now have access to a set of Web-based tools to simplify the process of submitting proposed new standards. Data standards ensure that ocean observations collected from multiple sources are compatible, an essential component of building IOOS.
  • Beginning the installation of a sentinel climate change monitoring network that will monitor coastal land elevations in relation to local sea level throughout the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. In the coming years, the goal is to expand the program to include all reserves within the system, to establish the reserves as “sentinel” sites for measuring and monitoring the impacts of climate change on estuarine systems.
  • Leading efforts to make selected ocean observation data compatible, thereby increasing their value and utility for decision-support tools, products, and services. Last year, NOAA IOOS focused on a set of five observations, including temperature, salinity, water level, currents, and ocean color, and targeted harmful algal bloom forecasts, coastal flooding predictions, integrated ecosystem assessments, and hurricane intensity forecasts for data delivery.
  • Releasing a new version of the Web mapping portal NowCOAST that provides users with near real-time coastal environmental information, including weather forecasts and global sea-surface temperature analyses. NowCOAST is used to help recreational and commercial mariners, emergency responders, coastal managers, coastal ocean modelers, marine educators, and others plan and manage coastal uses.
  • Initiating a two-year effort to add meteorological sensors to National Water Level Observation Network stations, with 25 stations upgraded in fiscal year 2008. The upgrades included the installation of wind, barometric pressure, and air temperature sensors, followed by monitoring and validation of the data. NOAA water-level and meteorological data have long been key components of coastal decision making.
  • Supporting NOAA’s Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping initiative to serve the greatest possible range of ocean and coastal geospatial data users through partnerships, the development of common standards, and technological innovation. Pilot projects in North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Alaska helped enhance ocean and coastal mapping activities and maximize the usefulness of the data and products.
  • Expanding the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) to four new locations in the Gulf of Mexico and on the West Coast while enhancing existing PORTS® along some of the Nation’s busiest waterways. NOAA PORTS® provides accurate, real-time ocean and weather data to mariners to enhance safe and efficient marine transportation. PORTS® data are accessible online at http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ports.html.
  • Awarding funding to various partners to help develop a national network of 11 Regional Coastal Ocean Observing Systems and management structures. Transitioning regions to a national network of observing systems and management structures will help expand the network of ocean-related observations, data, and products available and meet regionally specific needs.