Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services

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The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) collects and distributes oceanographic observations and predictions to ensure safe, efficient, and environmentally sound maritime commerce. CO-OPS provides water level and coastal current oceanographic products, measures and predicts tides throughout the nation, and is responsible for disseminating this information to the public.

CO-OPS highlights from fiscal year 2009 include:

  • Expanding NOAA’s Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) program to two new locations in Louisiana at Lake Charles and New Orleans. These PORTS® are positioned to provide significant safety and economic benefits. As part of the New Orleans system, the air gap technology located on the Huey P. Long Bridge that spans the Mississippi River provided the U.S. Navy with real-time information needed to determine safe passage under the bridge for the USS New York. With approximately 140 feet of total clearance under the bridge, the ship occupied 99.2 percent of the available space. NOAA’s real-time environmental observations are of ever-increasing importance to the U.S. military as well as recreational boaters and private industry.

    NOAA’s PORTS® provides accurate real-time oceanographic and meteorological data to mariners which can significantly reduce the risk of vessel groundings as well as increase the amount of cargo moved through the port.
  • Working with the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) to release Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region, as part of a series of 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products (SAP) produced by the CCSP. SAPs are aimed at providing current assessments of climate change science to inform public debate, policy, and operational decisions. These reports are also intended to help the CCSP develop future program research priorities. The CCSP’s guiding vision is to provide the nation and the global community with science-based knowledge needed to manage the risks and capture the opportunities associated with climate and related environmental changes. This SAP assessed the effects of sea level rise on coastal environments and presented some of the challenges that will need to be addressed to adapt to sea level rise.
  • Enhancing Web-based tools for coastal managers. The CO-OPS Sea Levels Online Web site has been a source of sea level trends, seasonal cycles, regional analysis, and inter-annual variations since early 2003. CO-OPS enhanced the tools provided on this Web site including updated linear sea level trends for 128 NOAA long-term water level stations along with their 95 percent confidence intervals. Sea level trends were calculated for 70 new global stations to bring the number of global stations presented to 114. This information is available in Google Maps and Google Earth interfaces, to allow the user greater ease in navigation.

    In order to determine user satisfaction for national sea level and tidal current products and services, CO-OPS completed its first NOAA Tides and Currents Customer Survey. The results from the survey will improve how NOAA turns oceanographic data into meaningful information to protect life, property, and the environment.

  • Expanding and strengthening the NOAA National Water Level Observation Network. In 2009, CO-OPS expanded and strengthened its National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON) at five locations in the Gulf region and Alaska, including Pascagoula, Mississippi; East Bank and Tesoro Marine Terminal, Louisiana; and Port Moller and Village Cove, Alaska. These additions bring the total number of NWLON stations to 210. Eight of the existing stations were also strengthened in the Gulf region at Lake Charles and Freshwater Bayou Locks, Louisiana, and Mayport, Fort Myers, Cedar Key, Apalachicola, Panama City Beach, and Key Colony Beach, Florida. In addition, three Great Lakes stations underwent major reconstruction at Mackinaw City, Little Rapids, and Mouth of Black River, Michigan.

    NOAA also continued its two-year effort to add meteorological sensors to NWLON locations with 30 stations upgraded in 2009. The upgrades included the installation of wind, barometric pressure, and air temperature sensors, followed by data monitoring and validation of the data within the initial weeks of data collection. This effort is in partnership with the National Weather Service, which provides final data quality control before data are disseminated to Weather Forecast Offices. NOAA water level and meteorological data have long been key components of coastal decision making before, during, and after major storm events.

  • Completing major current meter survey projects in three states. The CO-OPS National Current Observation Program (NCOP) conducted several major tidal current surveys in 2009 in response to user requests. The data collected will update tidal current predictions critical to safe navigation that are published annually in the U.S. Tidal Current Tables. During 2009, CO-OPS researchers deployed acoustic Doppler current profilers around the islands of Kodiak and Afognak including Sitkinak Strait, Shuyak Strait, Kupreanof Strait, Larsen Bay, and Geese Channel, Alaska; Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Canal, Massachusetts; and Ft. Pierce, Palm Beach, Port Everglades, and Miami, Florida. The current survey projects will support navigation and the operation of deep draft vessels and will establish new stations that have been identified as important for the nation’s commercial and recreational transportation systems. The collected current data will provide the information necessary to enhance safe and efficient navigation, resource protection, and incident prevention and response.
  • Contributing to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers national policies. NOAA provided sea level and geodetic information as a baseline for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) report, Water Resources Policies and Authorities: Incorporating Sea Level Change Considerations in Civil Works Programs. The circular provides USACE guidance for incorporating the direct and indirect physical effects of projected future sea level change in managing, planning, engineering, designing, constructing, operating, and maintaining USACE projects and systems of projects. This collaboration is the first time that USACE has considered sea level change information for engineering projects and incorporated sea level change considerations at a national level.
  • Delivering real-time water level enhancements to the National Hurricane Center. To better support NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System Program, CO-OPS delivered real-time water levels and predictions to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center for the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model. CO-OPS also provided the lowest astronomical tide/highest astronomical tide values which are used in the NHC storm surge model. These data are also used by Weather Forecast Offices and emergency managers for public warnings and evacuations.
  • Implementing new and Improved hydrodynamic models. CO-OPS implemented new and improved operational coastal models at Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and Tampa Bay. These hydrodynamic models provide mariners, port managers, and emergency response teams with present and future conditions of water levels, currents, temperature, and salinity. The nowcast and forecast products are generated by a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model that uses Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System data and National Weather Service (NWS) forecast products to predict water conditions at locations throughout the United States. This information assists port managers in making decisions regarding maximum tonnage and passage times without compromising safety. These tools also enable collaboration between NOS and NWS to establish a national capability for hydrodynamic modeling from the ocean to coastal waters.