Fiscal Year 2012 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.



U.S. IOOS Advisory Committee Established

Inaugural members of the U.S. IOOS Advisory Committee

Inaugural members of the U.S. IOOS Advisory Committee.

In fiscal year 2012, the NOAA Administrator appointed 13 inaugural members to the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Advisory Committee, a body charged with advising federal leaders on integrating the nation's ocean observing systems, which collect and deliver ocean information. The committee will provide advice at the request of the NOAA Administrator or the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee, a group composed of federal agency partners who collectively oversee IOOS development. The Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act mandated the new Advisory Committee, which is established and managed by NOAA. The U.S. IOOS program director serves as the committee's designated federal officer.

National Ocean and Coastal Observation Capabilities Increased

Photo of a buoy

Buoys are just one of the many tools needed to collect ocean observation data.

In 2012, the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program increased the nation's ocean observation capabilities through improvements at several regional operations.

The Alaska Ocean Observing System partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deploy a wave buoy in Alaska. This device gives mariners real-time wave height, wave direction, and sea surface temperature data to ensure safe maritime navigation. Also, the Alaska region installed a new weather station at McNeil River to provide more weather information for the west side of Cook Inlet and to support Cook Inlet forecasts and models.

In Hawaii, the Pacific Islands Integrated Ocean Observing System deployed wave buoys as well, one near Hilo and another near Kahului. Additionally, the Pacific region deployed new high frequency radar systems to deliver ocean surface current data that can support a number of activities, including U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue efforts, hazardous spill response, and ecosystem modeling.

The Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association also deployed new high frequency radar systems to detect the speed and direction of ocean surface currents along the coast.

In Monterey Bay, the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System partnered with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and the Monterey Abalone Company to install and operate a new water quality station. The station aids the abalone industry by monitoring for harmful algal blooms and other potential hazards, keeping shellfish safe to eat and increasing knowledge of Monterey Bay.

Additionally, all 11 regional IOOS associations completed 10-year build-out plans describing the organization of regional systems, identifying common products, and outlining key assets that will be required to meet the nation's needs for ocean observations.

Making the National Animal Telemetry Network a Reality

A chart tracking ten years of animal telemetry tracks

Ten years of animal telemetry tracks from more than 4,500 individual birds, fish, whales, and other animals reveal "biological hotspots" in the vast Pacific Ocean.

Recent advances in technology have made it possible to outfit animals with environmental data collection devices, just one of the practices in the emerging field of animal telemetry—using animals and technology to collect data remotely.

In the ocean realm, these devices or "tags" can track animals over long distances for multiple years, collecting valuable data below the ocean surface from difficult to reach places where conventional data collection techniques are technically or economically unfeasible. Data from tags attached to marine animals will soon flow to the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). In 2012, NOAA's IOOS Program, along with other federal, state, and academic partners, took significant steps toward establishing a U.S. Animal Telemetry Network, which would ultimately support IOOS with oceanographic and biological data.

As part of this effort, the IOOS Program made progress in a couple of regions.

On the West Coast, IOOS and its partners made data from tagged marine mammals in the Pacific, primarily elephant seals, more accessible to ocean modelers from the Naval Oceanographic Office and the National Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction. The modelers involved expressed enthusiasm about now having access to 8,000 ocean observations that were previously inaccessible.

In the Great Lakes region, the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System is tracking more than 1,700 fish from four species to answer fisheries management and ecology questions. Tracking information will influence a range of fish population restoration actions.

Linking High Frequency Radar Efforts across the Globe

Photo of a high frequency radar antenna

High frequency radar antenna used to measure the direction and speed of ocean surface currents along the coast.

In 2012, NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing Systems (IOOS) Program supported the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) effort to develop a global high frequency radar (HFR) network. HFR systems measure ocean surface current speed and direction along the coast to benefit search and rescue, oil spill response, harmful algal bloom monitoring, water quality assessments, ecosystem assessments, and fisheries management.

Over the last several years, the U.S. and other nations have developed national HFR networks. The related information technology infrastructures in these countries are now poised to go global, and countries are moving in that direction. The 2012 World Radiocommunication Conference allocated frequencies for international HFR operations in the 3 to 50 MHz range, which is important because without established frequencies any operational network suffers service interruptions due to interference.

The frequency allocations agreed upon at the conference capped off more than five years of work by the U.S. IOOS Program and the Office of Radio Frequency Management to get permanent frequencies for HFR operations. Experts from the U.S. commercial sector and representatives from Japan, Australia, Korea, Canada, France, and Germany worked toward this decision as well.

GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations working to integrate the variety of Earth observation systems to support environmental decision making in an increasingly complex world. GEO provides a framework within which these partners can develop new projects and coordinate their strategies and investments.

Advancing Use of Unmanned Underwater Robotic Vehicles

Screen capture of online map

A new online map shows users the locations of gliders at sea.

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program launched a new online map that displays where partner data-collection gliders are currently patrolling and where they have been.

The map provides users with one-stop access to a current snapshot of where unmanned, underwater gliders are located at sea. Once a glider returns from a mission, users can scroll over visualizations of collected data. Additionally, users can retrieve a historical collection of data from previous missions, reaching back to 2005. Eventually, this website will provide access to glider data for all IOOS regions and their partners, which will allow scientists easier retrieval of data for use in models and forecasting tools.

This new online map comes in the same year that IOOS partners completed the first step in an effort to send a glider around the world. In May 2012, IOOS scientists recovered a glider after it completed a nearly 11-month-long first leg of the journey, traveling from the arctic waters of Iceland to the subtropical waters of the Canary Islands.