Fiscal Year 2011 Annual Report:
Integrated Ocean Observing System Program

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.



Discovery and Integration of Data


A diver conducts Stationary Point Counts as part of the Biological Observations Project.

In fiscal year 2011, several U.S. IOOS projects provided a multi-disciplinary view of the ocean environment by facilitating discovery and integration of data from various sources, projects, and scientific domains. The advancement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sensor Observation Service Project, for example, used U.S. IOOS standards to serve water-level data from district tide gauges in Mobile, Alabama. The project resulted in additional key information for NOAA to use in its operational coastal inundation forecast.

The Biological Observations Project was developed to establish an efficient and effective information infrastructure for biological observations databases, adding components and web links as necessary to users. The project brought together data from NOAA, the National Park Service, and the IOOS-Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, resulting in improved access to biological data for fish population assessments.  

The Data Collections Service, a new tool in the IOOS Data Management and Communications toolbox, created by the U.S. IOOS Program and the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services offers retrieval of the latest observations and time series data as a collection from multiple stations versus a single station. This new data service can retrieve data twice as fast and process that data 70 percent faster than processing one data-file per station at a time.

U.S. IOOS Completes Blueprint to Full Capability

IOOS Blueprint cover

In November 2010, the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee approved the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System: A Blueprint for Full Capability Version 1.0.  Following formal acceptance of the Blueprint, the U.S. IOOS Program began an assessment to determine how much IOOS capability already exists among U.S. IOOS federal and non-federal partners.  The desired functionality described in the Blueprint is used as the basis for the assessment.  The results of the U.S. IOOS partner assessments will enable the program to determine the composite capabilities of U.S. IOOS based on all contributions to the system.

Once all the data are gathered, they will be compiled and compared to the desired functionality called for in the Blueprint to determine what remains to be accomplished to achieve full U.S. IOOS capability. Armed with this information in fiscal year 2012, planning will commence to address how the unfulfilled requirements of U.S. IOOS can be attained.  Subsequent to the assessment and identification of system gaps, U.S. IOOS will be better able to prioritize activities based on available resources.  U.S. IOOS resource scenarios may also be constructed based on this gap analysis for future near-, mid- and long-term system modifications, allowing for a comprehensive review of initiated and planned procurements.

Improving the Use of Predictive Models

Cyberinfrastructure Dashboard - Development of a National Cyberinfrastructure for the Super-Regional Testbed and Future Model Assessments

A cyberinfrastructure dashboard from the development of the testbed proejct and future model assessments.

In fiscal year 2011, 60 principal investigators from federal agencies, academia, and industry established a prototype U.S. IOOS ecosystem, oceans, coastal, and Great Lakes model testbed to improve the operational use of predictive models for the coastal ocean. Progress made in this “testbed project” has allowed scientists to share the use of numerical models, observations, and software tools needed to elucidate, prioritize, and resolve issues associated with a range of existing and emerging coastal oceanic, atmospheric, hydrologic, and ecological models.  Models that are operational, like the tools used at the National Hurricane Center to estimate storm surges, are being evaluated so improvements can be understood and implemented. The testbed project is facilitating the transition of additional and more advanced models from the research community to operational use.

Building Partnerships to Discover New Solutions

Scarlet Knight glider

The Scarlet Knight , an ocean glider from Rutgers University, was the first unmanned underwater vehicle to cross the Atlantic. (Image courtesy of Rutgers University)

One of U.S. IOOS’s main functions is to promote and build partnerships among agencies, academia, industry, and international sectors. Fiscal year 2011 marked several new partnerships and renewed commitments to establish working relationships committed to discovering new solutions and innovating new products and services. In December, an event at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History recognized the collaboration U.S. IOOS facilitated between Rutgers University, Teledyne Webb Research, Spain’s minister of development, and the U.S. Navy to develop the first unmanned, underwater robot – or ‘glider’ – to cross the Atlantic (a journey from New Jersey to Spain).

Also in association with Rutgers University, the U.S. IOOS Data Management and Communication team and the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative Cyberinfrastucture team continued to collaborate on simplifying the overall access to and use of ocean observing data. In fiscal year 2011, the teams focused on completing execution of a use case for IOOS coastal modelers at Rutgers and the University of Hawaii to inform and stress-test a series of software tools to enable simplified and automated data acquisition from multiple data providers and to allow data conversions.

U.S. IOOS also worked with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Council to explore new ways to incorporate U.S. IOOS data into regional-scale habitat studies. Habitat models containing IOOS data had greater explanatory power and out-of-sample prediction capabilities than previously published models built using the same analytical technique, but without the benefit of access to U.S. IOOS data streams.

Regional Success: A Focus on the Tsunami

tsunami warning sign

While each U.S. IOOS region is located in a unique area and has distinctive products and services based on the needs of its users and their environments, all regions also have the ability to work together as a network and contribute and respond to natural disasters. Following the Japanese tsunami in March, regional-level IOOS observations and real-time data products and services were all part of the response in the Pacific.

The Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) provided the only real-time water level (tsunami arrival) and turbidity (debris) measurements for Waikiki at five locations. The real-time water level and wave height for Hawaii, Guam, and the Marshall Islands from the regional pages, as well as information on tsunami evacuation zones, emergency shelters, and historic tsunami heights, were available on the PacIOOS web page.

The Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems website featured “Tsunami Evacuation Zones for the Oregon Coast,” a Google Map-based application for the public, planners. The Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS) measured the tsunami signal documented by the NOAA tide gauge on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier and by pressure sensors at the four SCCOOS Automated Shore stations. The Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System captured the tsunami passage using the Monterey Accelerated Research System node; this information was displayed online in real time.

The tsunami passage was also recorded the with U.S. IOOS sensors in Humboldt, San Francisco, Monterey, and Morro Bays (each showing different intensities) and displayed in real time via video cameras the succession of tsunami inflows and outflows in Moss Landing and Santa Cruz harbors.