NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System Program

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NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Program supports development of a coordinated network of people and technology that work together to generate and disseminate continuous data on our coastal waters, Great Lakes, and oceans. Activities of the National IOOS include observations and data transmission, data management and communications, and data analyses and modeling.

IOOS highlights from fiscal year 2010 include:

  • IOOS Data Catalog Launched
    In June, IOOS launched the first version of the IOOS Data Catalog to help people find ocean observations. The goal of the catalog is to allow users to find the data they want, for the location and time period of interest, from all available IOOS partners without having to know in advance what partners actually operate the observing systems and data servers.  Data are now available from NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center, NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, and NOAA CoastWatch, as well as three regional partners of IOOS.  Other regional and interagency IOOS partner data will be added over time.
  • First Glider to Cross an Ocean Completes Journey
    On December 9, 2009, IOOS and its partners completed guiding the first unmanned, underwater robot – or “glider” – to cross the ocean.  Scientists at Rutgers University, a Mid-Atlantic partner of IOOS, launched the glider from New Jersey. It spent seven months at sea, repeatedly diving to depths of 200 meters to collect data such as temperature, salinity, and density along the water column before landing in Spain.  The mission served as a major advancement for ocean data collection technology, allowing critical data collection in the middle of the ocean at lower cost and risk to human life than ever before.  Scientists correlate these data with those from satellite imagery and altimetry, sea-floor and buoy-mounted sensors, and radar systems to get a more detailed view of a particular patch of ocean in near real time. The data yields a better understanding of what is happening in the ocean and trends to detect. Additionally, because undergraduates at Rutgers University participated in this mission, the glider journey is advancing science and technology while educating our next generation of oceanographers. The achievement was a partnership of IOOS through Rutgers University, as well as NOAA, Puertos del Estado (The Spanish Port Authority), the National Ocean Partnership Program, and other European partners.  IOOS partners are now working to create a glider capable of circulating the globe.
  • U.S. IOOS Blueprint to Full Operational Capability Drafted
    In fiscal year 2010, NOAA IOOS forwarded the U.S. IOOS Blueprint for Full Operational Capability, Version 1.0 (formerally known as the U.S. IOOS Road Map) to the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee (IOOC) for review and approval.  The IOOS Blueprint is intended to guide efforts of all U.S. IOOS partners to develop and sustain a fully capable U.S. IOOS. It builds upon the strategic framework provided by previous high-level U.S. IOOS conceptual, organizational, planning, and developmental efforts to facilitate development of specific execution guidance to U.S. IOOS partners/participants for achieving full operational capability.  The IOOS Blueprint is a critical step in harmonizing the efforts of IOOS partners in support of the National Ocean Policy Area of Special Interest 5 (Ocean, Coastal and Great Lakes Observations, Mapping and Infrastructure).
  • IOOS Supports Deepwater Horizon Response Efforts
    Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, IOOS partners across the nation used underwater, unmanned gliders and coastal high frequency radar stations to capture data to assist in tracking oil flows at various levels in the water column as well as on the surface. IOOS regional programs from the Gulf Coast, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Southern California, and Northwest regions, as well as the U.S. Navy, all participated. Up to seven gliders at one time equipped with sensors called fluorometers measure matter in the water, which can help indicate the presence of oil. Though scientists must still confirm oil presence through water sampling, glider technology is unique in that it collects critical data throughout the water column at relatively low cost and at no risk to human life. Gliders collect temperature, salinity, currents, density, and additional variables that describe conditions below the surface. Some gliders dive no deeper than 100 to 200 meters, while others collect data 1,000 meters below the surface. This was the first oil spill response in the United States to apply this technology. NOAA and the U.S. Navy used the three-dimensional variables provided through IOOS to update daily models that predicted where the oil was moving and provided insights into how it may move through the water column. Data and information from the gliders are available from a single website portal operated by Rutgers University.

    IOOS also used high frequency radar technology to measure surface current speed and direction in near real time. These data were incorporated into oil spill trajectory models used by NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration. Managers and officials in coastal communities used this information to better prepare in places where it was clear oil would hit the shoreline.

  • Bay and Estuarine Sensor Technology Workshop Hosted by IOOS in the Chesapeake Bay
    In July, NOAA IOOS and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office convened a small-scale demonstration of an end-to-end data observing system and took stakeholder input on that system. The Bay and Estuarine Sensor Technology Workshop took place at NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office’s new Environmental Science Training Center in Oxford, Maryland. Observing system specialists deployed a unified system of buoys, autonomous underwater vehicles, and surface vessels. Environmental data sets collected included, but were not limited to, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll a, and turbidity measurements. Working in collaboration with the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, scientists made the data easily accessible to a broad user community using IOOS standardized services and formats.  In addition, the workshop convened environmental educators, teachers, students, academics, scientists, and resource managers to: 1) give them hands-on field experience with technology used to construct an ocean observing system, 2) seek their input to the design of the data products, and 3) show them how information is used to assess marine or freshwater environments. 
  • IOOS Supports Creation of a Model Testbed to Improve Marine Forecasts Along Atlantic and Gulf Coasts
    NOAA IOOS awarded $4 million in fiscal year 2010 competitive funding to the Southeastern Universities Research Association to evaluate the readiness of marine forecasts along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts and improve them for operational use. Recent advances in science and computing capabilities are leading to improved tools to predict coastal ocean phenomena. This project creates an objective environment to compare the latest models for improved forecasting that will ultimately benefit the daily lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans. Scientists will work to improve the precision of computer models that forecast chronic issues of high relevance in the Atlantic and Gulf regions – such as flooding from storm surge and seasonal depletion of oxygen in shallow waters. They will also explore methods for effectively delivering model results to regional centers, scientists, and managers relying on IOOS. The project is intended to identify the most useful models, as well as methods to translate the resulting information to the public. Congress kick-started the grant opportunity with the inclusion of funding to support such a project in last year’s Consolidated Appropriations Act.  The legislation, and NOAA’s subsequent Federal Funding Opportunity announcement, called for inclusion of at least 20 academic and research institutions to participate. The Southeastern Universities Research Association is a consortium of more than 60 universities that work with government agencies and researchers to advance information technology and improve understanding of coastal, ocean, and environmental phenomena.
  • Regional Partnerships Strengthened
    In 2010, NOAA IOOS awarded $20 million to Regional IOOS partners across the nation, continuing the development of its network of Regional Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (RCOOS) and their managing entities, Regional Associations.  IOOS Regional Associations work to expand the network of ocean-related observations, data, and products available; improve regional implementation of NOAA and other federal missions; and meet regionally specific needs for coastal and ocean information.  In 2010, regional IOOS accomplishments included establishing a new observing array in the Northwest and regional IOOS scientific support to ocean acidification research priorities.  The launch of a new ocean observing array off the coast of Washington state exemplifies a partnership enabled by IOOS, because the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS) facilitated the system’s launch in July by leveraging the regional observing network already in place. NANOOS established the observational array as more than just a single system, but part of a larger national effort. Scientists will use this observing array to gain information on issues of concern in the Pacific Northwest, such as ocean acidification, hypoxia, harmful algal blooms, and climate change. 

    In 2010, the IOOS Regional Associations were included in the NOAA Ocean Acidification Research Plan as partners who could provide platforms of opportunity for ocean acidification sensors and provide data management support at a regional level.  IOOS began fostering a new partnership with shellfish and finfish associations to understand their needs for ocean observations and for developing tools for adapting to or managing water conditions near their shellfish operations. A West Coast Ocean Acidification Workshop in July provided a new forum to bring together constituents from fisheries industries, research programs, and governmental agencies that do not typically interact.  The group convened to address concerns related to the impacts of ocean acidification on the West Coast shellfish industries.  The workshop focused on identifying near-term actions and recommendations that will create better coordinated scientific research, observing and monitoring data, and linkages between real-time information needs of shellfish growers and longer-term research questions. 
  • Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act Implementation
    In fiscal year 2010, the NOAA IOOS and the newly chartered Integrated Ocean Observing Committee (IOOC) made significant strides at implementing the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009, which authorizes the establishment of a national Integrated Ocean Observing System and codifies a governance structure within which that system will operate.  Initial steps included hosting a town hall session focused on public-private partnerships at the Oceans '09 conference sponsored by the Marine Technology Society, drafting a public-private use process for recommendation to the IOOC, beginning work on the steps by which the IOOC will develop certification standards for IOOS's non-federal assets, releasing yet another competitive Federal Funding Opportunity for regional participation in fiscal year 2011, continuing to focus on the development of a data management and communications system, and pursuing a path forward for establishing a System Advisory Committee.