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NOS Priority: Coastal Resilience

NOS Fiscal Year 2016 Year in Review

New Service for Downloading Chart Updates

electronic charting systems and apps image

Coast Survey has created millions of tiles, covering over a thousand NOAA raster navigational charts, so electronic charting systems and apps can use the smaller tile files to speed updates to users.

In recent years, larger manufacturers have switched to using NOAA raster charts but experienced problems with downloading NOAA’s huge chart files that take a long time to upload. In response, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey collaborated with the navigation electronics industry to create new chart tile products and services to alleviate this problem. The new service provides digital chart users with faster and easier updates. The first phase, completed in December 2016, allowed commercial users to update their charts by accessing tiles (sections of nautical charts) online. The final phase packages tile sets within geographic regions for offline use. Users like recreational boaters are now able to download geographic packages that are updated weekly and contain only those tiles that have changed since the last full package. This dramatically reduces the bandwidth requirements necessary to keep a vessel’s chart suite up to date.


Hurricane Surge On-demand Forecast System

The Hurricane Surge On-demand Forecast System (HSOFS) was successfully implemented for operational use on NCEP Central Operations’ high performance computing system. The model grid and testing was originally developed in a project with AECOM and Riverside Technology, Inc., and further testing and transition to operations was coordinated through the Coast Survey Development Laboratory’s Storm Surge Team. HSOFS is a hurricane storm surge forecast system based on ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC), an advanced, large-scale storm surge model with local high resolution to predict flooding in coastal communities. HSOFS simulates water levels as hurricanes track across the Western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and covers the coast from Texas to Maine including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each operational run of HSOFS includes an ensemble of five simulations in which modifications are made to the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) Forecast Advisory track (official, right shift, left shift, more/less intense). Operational implementation of HSOFS is intended to be used near the time of hurricane landfall to provide additional guidance to the NHC.


GRAV-D exceeds 50 percent of total coverage

GRAV-D reaches 50 percent milestone of gravity completion.

GRAV-D reaches 50 percent milestone of gravity completion.

The National Geodetic Survey’s (NGS) Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum (GRAV-D) project is covering the United States and its territories with airborne gravity measurements to facilitate the creation of a new national vertical reference system slated for launch in 2022.

In FY2016, GRAV-D achieved the major milestone of having surveyed more than 50 percent of the total project area. With each one percent of the project area equating to approximately 100 flight hours, GRAV-D has collected and processed data from a total of about 5,000 flight hours. More than three million square miles of data collection and processing have been completed across the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The new vertical reference system scheduled for release in 2022 will be built upon GRAV-D airborne gravity data, together with both terrestrial and satellite data. Once implemented, GRAV-D will provide an estimated cost savings of $4.8 billion to the Nation from infrastructure cost savings, inundation models for storm surges and tsunamis, and coastal intelligence and resilience initiatives for communities.


New Sensor to Detect Harmful Algal Blooms Deployed

 Deploying the Environmental Sensor Processor

Deploying the Environmental Sensor Processor near the Juan de Fuca eddy in the Pacific Northwest in May, ahead of HAB season. Photo Credit: NOAA/UW

May 2016 saw the deployment of the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) to monitor and provide early warning for harmful algal blooms (HABs) on the West Coast, following successful deployments in the Gulf of Maine.  The Pacific Northwest deployment was undertaken through a U.S. IOOS Ocean Technology Transition project [grant] and led by the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab. The ESP—a robotic, marine biosensor developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)—automates sampling and testing and transmits data in near-real time, addressing an accessibility issue that has previously hindered offshore observation.  Continuous offshore sampling and data transmission enables earlier detection of HABs, thereby allowing communities and businesses more time to mitigate the impacts.

Originally scheduled for deployment in August 2016, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and other end-users requested a spring launch following the devastating 2016 West Coast HAB that occurred earlier in the season. A multi-agency team from NOAA (NCCOS & Northwest Fisheries Science Center), IOOS, and the University of Washington came together to make that launch happen, and the new ESP was successfully deployed May 23 on a mooring within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary near the Juan de Fuca eddy, a known HAB hotspot. The resulting data are the first near-real time ESP observations publically available to end-users in near-real time on the west coast.  


Biodiversity Observing Network Gains Momentum in U.S.

Sea anemone in the kelp beds of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Sea anemone in the kelp beds of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the sites of the 3 pilot Marine Biodiversity Observing Networks (MBON). Photo Credit: Chad King/MBNMS

The U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observing Network (MBON)--a partnership funded by U.S. IOOS®, NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NASA, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has had a successful second year. Researchers are working toward establishing a long-term national biodiversity monitoring network, through three pilot projects.  The projects are working in the Arctic Chukchi Sea, the Santa Barbara Channel, and the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries. The Arctic Marine Biodiversity Network (AMBON), a partnership with a number of regional initiatives (including the NOAA-led Distributed Biological Observatory), was selected as one of the projects that will support deliverables from the White House Arctic Sciences Ministerial, taking place in fall 2016.  The Sanctuaries MBON project extended to include Flower Garden Banks.  Work in the Flower Gardens is timely, and MBON researchers are contributing to understanding of the unprecedented coral bleaching event happening there.  An increase in availability of time-series data will make this event, and future events, easier to understand and forecast. In the Santa Barbara Channel MBON project, researchers are developing new technology and data handling methods to identify and fill data gaps.


Surface Current Data Delivered to Weather Forecasting Offices in Near Real-Time

'Chá ba,' a buoy off the coast of Washington

"Chá ba," a buoy off the coast of Washington, contributes better information about the ocean conditions that oysters can and cannot tolerate. Photo credit: NANOOS

In FY 2016, U.S. IOOS® and the National Weather Service completed work to integrate high-frequency radar-derived surface current data into the powerful data processing tool AWIPS-II (the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System), giving Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) in coastal areas new access to ocean data that directly impacts their service areas. IOOS operates the nation’s only high-frequency radar network, providing near-real time 2-D maps of ocean of surface currents speed and direction. This network supports U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue operations, NOAA response to oil spills, port navigation, tracking of harmful algal blooms, and now offers WFOs more insight into offshore and coastal storm movement, storm surge events, and wind movement.


Nuisance Flooding Becomes Part of National Dialogue on Sea Level Rise

 Nuisance Flooding in Alexandria, Virginia during the perigean spring tide in May, 2016

Nuisance Flooding in Alexandria, Virginia during the perigean spring tide in May, 2016

In 2016, The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-­OPS) provided the second ever outlook for nuisance flooding for the coming meteorological year. Nuisance flooding was also included as an indicator of climate change for the first time in the recent Environmental Protection Agency report, Climate Change Indicators in the United States. Nuisance flooding is recurrent flooding that takes place at high tide and can cause costly damage to infrastructure. Because of sea level rise, nuisance flooding in the United States has become a “sunny day” event – not necessarily linked to storms or heavy rain. The frequency of nuisance tidal flooding in many U.S. cities increased as predicted for the 2016 meteorological year, from May 2016 to April 2016, and in some cities, the days of nuisance flooding exceeded trends and broke records, especially in the southeastern U.S and Gulf Coast. The 2016 outlook expects the nuisance flooding trend to increase, but takes into account La Niña conditions that typically have less effect on tidal flood frequencies compared to El Niño. This outlook can help communities better understand local nuisance flooding frequencies and prepare for potential impacts.  CO-OPS issued the first report on nuisance flooding in 2014, analyzing data from NOAA tide gauges where the water level exceeded the local threshold for minor flooding impacts established by the local Weather Forecasting Offices of the National Weather Services. CO-OPS worked with the National Centers for Environmental Information to issue the Nuisance Flooding outlook.

 


PORTSⓇ turns 25, Helps Three New Seaports Become More Safe and Efficient

  New air gap sensor on the Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah, GA will help ships navigate safely into and out of port

New air gap sensor on the Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah, GA will help ships navigate safely into and out of port

In 2016, the Physical Oceanographic Real Time System (PORTSⓇ) held its 25th anniversary and added three new systems, for a total of 28 PORTSⓇ.  New systems were added in Savannah, Georgia; Cape Cod, Massachusetts and on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. These systems provide real-time, accurate, and reliable observations helping mariners and port operators to navigate safely, stay on schedule, and maximize cargo loading. More than 60 of the Nation’s most economically critical seaports are served by PORTSⓇ.  NOAA has partnered with industry and local maritime organizations, as well as other federal and state agencies, to install these systems based on the needs of local mariners and port operators.


CO-OPS Supports California with Analysis and Outreach on Water Levels and Flooding Due to El Nino

In December, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) helped the public in California understand how El Niño was impacting the water levels on the coast. CO-OPS provided technical guidance and communication materials to explain how the coastal flooding being seen was associated with elevated sea level from El Niño. CO-OPS documented the highest measured tides at eight water level stations throughout California during the high water level event over Thanksgiving, and released outreach materials directed at partners to communicate the causes and impacts of these events. CO-OPS coordinated with the Office of Coastal Management, the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Eureka, the California coastal management community, and the Governor's office to provide this support.


Settlement with BP and Final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan

 Marsh restoration at the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary in Louisiana

Marsh restoration at the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary in Louisiana

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Assessment and Restoration Division worked with NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center, NOAA’s Office of the General Counsel Natural Resources Section and multiple trustee agencies to produce the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan/Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PDARP/PEIS) for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The 1,400+ page report was the basis for the record settlement of $8.8 billion for the restoration of injured natural resources between the natural resource trustees and BP.


Settlements of Enbridge, Commencement and Gulf-Chevron

Commencement Bay during a restoration work party (Credit: EarthCorps)

Commencement Bay during a restoration work party (Credit: EarthCorps)

NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Assessment and Restoration Division, NOAA Fisheries’ Restoration Center and NOAA’s Office of the General Counsel Natural Resources Section secured over $67 million to restore the environment following three events. By working with partners agencies from the State of Michigan, over $60 million was generated for restoration following the 2010 Enbridge pipeline failure. The spill resulted in approximately 843,000 gallons of a heavy form of crude oil known as “tar sands oil” into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. Restoration projects include restoring and protecting hundreds of acres of wetlands and upland habitat, replacing culverts to enhance river flow, and increasing recreational opportunities for the public along the Kalamazoo River.  

In Washington State a settlement worth approximately $5 million continued a history of restoring Commencement Bay, which was impacted by the pollution from industrial activity. In total, NOAA and partners have generated over $70 million dollars over the last 20 years to hold polluters accountable and reestablish the bay.

In Maine, an $880,000 settlement was reached for an oil spill at the Gulf-Chevron marine oil terminal. The settlement will support restoration projects for natural resources, including aquatic habitats and areas of recreational use.


Florida Incident Waterway Debris Response Guide

Events like severe storms, floods, tsunamis, or maritime disasters can all result in a large influx of debris in coastal areas

Events like severe storms, floods, tsunamis, or maritime disasters can all result in a large influx of debris in coastal areas

The NOAA Marine Debris Program completed the Florida Incident Waterway Debris Response Guide in 2016 to improve preparedness for response to and recovery from events like severe storms, floods, tsunamis, or maritime disasters that can result in a large influx of marine debris. This guide is the second completed in an ongoing effort by the NOAA Marine Debris Program to collaborate with local, state, and federal entities in coastal states in developing state-specific guidance documents for easy reference in the case of a severe marine debris event. The Florida Guide serves as a comprehensive reference for incident waterway debris response. It contains an outline of existing response structures and captures all relevant responsibilities and existing procedures in Florida. The guide is accompanied by a Field Reference Guide with pertinent quick reference information for in the field emergency response operations.


Response Highlights in Fiscal Year 2016

A scientist with the response transfers a sediment sample from the Mississippi River to collection jars for analysis following a collision and oil spill near Columbus, Kentucky

A scientist with the response transfers a sediment sample from the Mississippi River to collection jars for analysis following a collision and oil spill near Columbus, Kentucky

The US Coast Guard (USCG) conducted an assessment dive of the sunken wreck of Tank Barge Argo, lost in 1937 in Lake Erie, when an active chemical plume and odors were noted above the tank barge. The benzene cargo was characterized and ultimately removed. NOAA Office of Response and Restoration’s Emergency Response Division (ERD), with state and federal partners, managed the development of environmental monitoring, water sampling, sediment sampling, and waste disposal plans for the Argo response.

Two tug boats collided on the Mississippi River near Columbus, Kentucky, spilling an estimated 120,500 gallons of oil. The oil was heavier than water and was at the bottom of a murky, flowing river; posing unique challenges. ERD provided river flow forecasts, chemistry of the spilled oil, a submerged oil assessment, assistance with a side scan sonar, and assistance with the selection of unique response technologies, such as environmental clamshell dredging.

ERD supported the USCG response to an oil spill in the Green Canyon oil reserve area in the Gulf of Mexico, providing oil spill trajectory analysis and information on natural resources potentially at risk from the oil, including species and habitats in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.


NOAA’s Response Asset Directory

The NOAA Response Asset Directory

With the implementation of the NOAA Response Asset Directory, NOAA will be better positioned to respond to future disasters efficiently through improved shared knowledge and access to available resources for all NOAA staff

NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center (DRC) - housed in the Office of Response and Restoration - takes a leadership role in building NOAA’s preparedness and ability to respond to and mitigate environmental impacts from natural and human-caused disasters such as hurricanes and major oils spills. As part of the National Ocean Service Roadmap resilience and response strategies, an online NOAA Response Asset Directory (NRAD) was developed. The NRAD is an all-hazards resource directory that includes searchable and spatial information on physical resources, as well as NOAA services which could be used or in need of protection during response and recovery from disasters.

The pilot project has been completed for six states at high risk for hurricane threats - Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Initial responses highlight the application as a very powerful planning, response, and incident recovery tool, and the expectation is that the directory will expand nationally over the next year. With the implementation of the NRAD, NOAA will be better positioned to respond to future disasters efficiently through improved shared knowledge and access to available resources for all NOAA staff.


Promoting Nature-based Shorelines to Protect the Coast

Aerial view of nature-based shoreline at NOAA laboratory on Pivers Island in Beaufort, North Carolina, in 2014.

Aerial view of nature-based shoreline at NOAA laboratory on Pivers Island in Beaufort, North Carolina, in 2014. The shoreline, constructed from salt marsh plants and submerged oyster reef, was planted in 2000 and has successfully prevented erosion of the lawn behind the marsh

Hardened erosion control techniques, such as bulkheads and seawalls, often accelerate shoreline erosion and destroy the habitat of economically important fisheries and other wildlife. Nature-based shoreline stabilization options, like marsh grass and oyster reefs, offer erosion control while maintaining normal ecosystem functions.

In 2016, NCCOS co-authored the NOAA publication, Guidance for Considering the Use of Living Shorelines, which encourages nature-based shoreline stabilization techniques and highlights NOAA science, tools, and training that support such techniques. The publication has been shared with local, state, and federal coastal managers. NCCOS scientists quantified the amount of carbon stored in living shorelines, showing they can make a valuable contribution to carbon dioxide reduction strategies.  

Also in 2016, NCCOS, along with other NOAA National Ocean Service offices, began a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify, prioritize, and implement projects that advance natural shoreline science and engineering practices. The group established a collaboration framework and produced a report that documents key data gaps and work priorities based on the inputs of over 40 cross-agency experts. The partnership is an extension of NOAA’s commitment to help coastal communities plan for and mitigate the effects of extreme weather events and changing ocean conditions.


Climate Change Community Vulnerability Assessments in the Chesapeake Bay

Coastal flooding in Oxford, Maryland, in 2016

Coastal flooding in Oxford, Maryland, in 2016

 Vulnerability assessments consider a broad range of ecological, social, economic and cultural components, and examine how these components might be affected by specific climate change scenarios. These assessments can give coastal communities the information needed to address climate-related hazards, such as storm surge and sea level rise, and to identify adaptation strategies.

In 2016, social science researchers at NCCOS completed a vulnerability assessment for Talbot County and the Town of Oxford, Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay region. The team examined both environmental and social vulnerability using data collected on population demographics, economic characteristics, distribution of natural resources, and features of commercial and residential structures. These vulnerabilities were investigated alongside various flood hazard risks, including stormwater flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise. The results of the assessment will be used by the community to inform adaptation planning and corresponding management actions.

Following the success of this first vulnerability assessment, the researchers have already begun work on the next study area: the Choptank River Habitat Focus Area, which spans four counties in Maryland and one in Delaware.

Ports Resilience Index Bolsters Preparedness

The Ports Resilience index is a user-friendly tool for maintaining port and marine transportation operations during and after disasters

The Ports Resilience index is a user-friendly tool for maintaining port and marine transportation operations during and after disasters

Ports play an important role in waterfront community resilience.  A new tool, the Ports Resilience Index, is a simple and inexpensive means of undertaking a readiness assessment for maintaining port and marine transportation operations during and after disasters.
Ports that have completed this self-assessment include the Port of Corpus Christi Authority in Texas, the Jackson County Port Authority Mississippi, the Port of Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District in Louisiana, and Port Tampa Bay in Florida. The Office for Coastal Management funded this project, which was a partnership effort led by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and coordinated by the Louisiana Sea Grant.  Other partners included Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Dewberry, seven Gulf of Mexico ports, the Gulf Ports Association of the Americas, and industry partners.  The nation’s seaports move over $1.5 trillion in cargo each year, supporting port-side employment of more than 420,000 persons that pays $30 billion in wages each year. Keeping ports safe (and working) represents an important aspect of the nation’s economic health.


Ft. Lauderdale Climate Adaptation Plan Approved

Several years ago Ft. Lauderdale was a pilot community in a National Coastal Zone Management Program initiative focused on preparing communities for sea level rise and coastal flooding. New policies were enacted that included infrastructure improvements and incorporating sea level rise projections into the design of new construction capital projects. This baseline effort continues to pay dividends today, as the city’s FY2017-2021 Proposed Community Investment Plan identifies 16 adaptation action areas and 40 projects identified for funding. These projects include stormwater, park, and seawall repairs and improvements. A public survey associated with these efforts found 75% of the respondents saying they had observed coastal water level increases and 72% have observed increased flooding.


Building the Capacity of the Coastal Management Community

While NOAA is the nation's premier coastal science information agency, simply providing the information is not enough.  Over 5,000 professionals took advantage of the coastal management educational opportunities provided by NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management. Follow- up surveys revealed that 71 percent of the 1,600 professionals who participated in the formal training programs are using their new skills to make coastal communities more resilient.  Over 3000 people engaged in peer-to-peer learning at various events such as the Pacific Risk Management 'Ohana (PRiMO) conference, workshops focused on FEMA’s Community Rating System, the Social Coast Forum, and “Our Florida Reefs,” a community planning initiative. Technical assistance was also provided via three fellowship programs.


Investing in New York’s Green Infrastructure

Infographic showing application and benefits of green infrastructure

Infographic showing application and benefits of green infrastructure

Green infrastructure, the use of nature-based solutions to minimize flooding, is gaining traction throughout the coastal zone. NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management provided funding ($410,000) and assistance to develop an information tool that is guiding green infrastructure investments in Staten Island and Jamaica Bay. The tool incorporates research on green infrastructure performance during Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, and integrates data on future flooding scenarios, vulnerable populations, and critical infrastructure.  The tool is being used by The Trust for Public Land and the City of New York to identify the most suitable and effective green infrastructure investment locations, as they made decisions about the best way to use the $176 million in disaster resilience funds New York received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


Science evaluation to inform future investments

This year, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program completed a science evaluation to gain a better understanding of how the data, tools and products it provides are used by stakeholders. A panel of leading, independent coral reef experts investigated the accessibility of the information to coral reef managers and policy makers, how helpful these products are for coastal management decision makers, and how the data, information, and services are being used to support coral reef conservation. This review covered NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program-funded ecosystem science only.  Reports from the panelists and the program’s response, including an action plan for program adjustments based on panelists' recommendations, are available on the program’s web site.


NOAA plays a key role at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium—bridging science to policy

NOAA’s coral reef research portfolio was well represented at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu Hawaii

NOAA’s coral reef research portfolio was well represented at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu Hawaii

NOAA’s coral reef research portfolio was well represented at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Honolulu Hawaii with researchers joining sessions and media events on the conservation, restoration, policy, and science of coral reef and associated habitats. ICRS organizers also hosted a Leader’s Summit with the presidents of the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Republic of the Marshall Islands. These leaders issued a call to action requesting increased collaboration between the scientific community and local governments, acknowledging there needs to be more funding and a strengthened commitment to protecting coral reefs. ICRS is the largest international meeting focused on coral reef science and management. It was hosted by the International Society for Reef Studies and was sponsored by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. The symposium takes place every four years.


Partnership critical to coral reef ecosystem conservation in Asia-Pacific

A NOAA scientist works with the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to ground truth light signatures of fishing lights detected using visible infrared imaging technology.

A NOAA scientist works with the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to ground truth light signatures of fishing lights detected using visible infrared imaging technology.

2016 marked the third year of a $20 million dollar partnership between NOAA and the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia to strengthen local marine conservation in an area with some of the planet’s most diverse marine habitats. NOAA provided trainings on:

  • Ecosystem approaches to fisheries management in the Philippines,
  • Marine protected area management in the Philippines and Indonesia,
  • Development of sustainable marine tourism in Indonesia, and
  • Methods and technologies, like visible infrared imaging, to enhance marine enforcement in the Philippines and Indonesia.  

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program coordinates the agency’s engagement in international coral reef issues. NOS, NMFS, OAR, and NESDIS play a key role in implementing the trainings that are core parts of this five-year partnership with USAID.


Data highlights status and trends in the coral reef health

A diver collects data on the condition of coral reefs in the Mariana Islands

A diver collects data on the condition of coral reefs in the Mariana Islands

Scientists collected biological, climatic, and socioeconomic data in 2016 to measure changes in U.S. coral reef ecosystems as part of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. In the Hawaiian Archipelago, NOAA scientists conducted hundreds of fish and benthic surveys and recovered and re-deployed instruments to assess impacts of ocean acidification and warming. In the Atlantic, scientists gathered similar data at sites in Puerto Rico and Florida. Social science researchers focused on the connections between coral reef ecosystems and people, their communities and economies by completing resident surveys in Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands. Satellite remote sensing provided data across all U.S. reef areas, filling gaps between field sampling sites. The National Coral Reef Monitoring Program is an integrated and focused monitoring effort with partners across the U.S. and its territories. Outcomes will help managers, decision makers, and communities better understand the condition of their resources and take effective place-based conservation actions.

President Obama expands Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Map showing the expanded area of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Map showing the expanded area of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The new boundary extends out to the U.S. EEZ (shown in purple). The monument's original area is shown in blue

On August 26, 2016, President Obama signed a proclamation expanding Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Previously the largest contiguous fully-protected conservation area in the United States at 139,797 square miles (362,073 km2), the expanded boundaries make it once again the biggest protected area on the planet at 582,578 square miles (1,508,870 km2), nearly the size of the Gulf of Mexico. Papahānaumokuākea is globally recognized for its biological and cultural significance, being the only mixed UNESCO World Heritage site in the United States and only one of 35 mixed sites in the world. This expansion not only provides direct protection to this global resource, but also brings critical attention to the need for increased ocean conservation and protection worldwide. Despite its remote location in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, PMNM faces a looming threat of global climate change that will affect its land and marine ecosystems, as well as its cultural resources -- a threat that ocean resources are facing across the globe.


Monitor and Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuaries Expansions Proposed

USS Monitor.

USS Monitor. This famed Civil War ironclad sank during a storm on December 31, 1862, and wasn't found again until 1973. Its discovery prompted the creation of our first national marine sanctuary, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary! Photo Credit: NOAA Monitor Collection

For more than 40 years, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary has served as a special place honoring the iconic Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor, and the memory and service of Civil War sailors. The proposed expansion, announced in January 2016, is an opportunity to honor another generation of mariners that helped defend the nation during both World Wars. An expansion of this historical site just off of North Carolina’s coast would protect a collection of historically significant shipwrecks vessels, including vessels sunk during World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic.
Building on more than 30 years of scientific studies, including numerous reports released in the last decade and in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, NOAA announced in June 2016 to expand Flower Garden Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The preferred scenario would cover an extra 383 square miles, including 15 reefs and banks that provide habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, as well as 15 threatened or endangered species of whales, sea turtles, and corals. This scenario also calls for comprehensive management and protection of these important habitat sites and cultural resources, and would provide more opportunities for research and recovery of resources.


MPA Federal Advisory Committee approves “Guiding Principles” for Arctic MPAs created by participatory process

 A female bowhead whale and her calf in the Arctic

A female bowhead whale and her calf in the Arctic

The U.S. has identified advancing marine protected areas (MPA) networks as a priority under its chairmanship of the Arctic Council during 2016-2017.  The Arctic is experiencing rapid changes due to climate impacts, including receding sea ice which will open sensitive ecosystems to human uses.  While MPAs are effective marine conservation tools, many stakeholders in Alaska are concerned about potential restrictions on access to ocean resources.  To provide an opportunity for dialogue and consensus building on this issue, NOAA and the Department of the Interior asked the MPA Federal Advisory Committee to develop guidance on MPAs and MPA networks in the Arctic.  The “Guiding Principles for Marine Protected Areas and MPA Networks in the Arctic” were developed by the Committee’s Arctic MPA Working Group, representing diverse U.S. Arctic stakeholders.  The “Guiding Principles” note the impacts and implications of climate change already being felt, the role of MPAs as a conservation tool, and strongly emphasize the importance of engagement with Alaska Natives and local stakeholders.  


Inaugural Issue of Earth is Blue: Magazine of the National Marine Sanctuaries

The inaugural issue of Earth is Blue: Magazine of the National Marine Sanctuaries was released in June 2016. Following on the footsteps of ONMS’ social media campaign Earth is Blue, the magazine covers a broad range of topics and everything that the sanctuary system has to offer. The beauty and economic benefits of our country’s underwater parks are highlighted through mesmerizing photographs and stories. Expect to learn about our nation’s indigenous cultures, maritime heritage, conservation of vital marine areas and the wide variety of recreational activities that visitors can enjoy responsibly.  The Earth is Blue: Magazine of the National Marine Sanctuaries is available in hard copy and online.


Expanding NOAA Planet Stewards National Reach and Impact

In FY16 NOAA’s Planet Stewards Education Project (PSEP) grew to 950 formal and informal educators and engaged over 2,230 educators in monthly webinars and seven face-to-face workshops held in Boulder, CO, New Orleans, LA, Salt Lake City, UT, Detroit, MI, Charleston, SC, Long Beach, CA, and at the National Science Teachers Association national conference in Nashville, TN. These in-service opportunities focused on the regional impacts of climate change, hands-on education activities, and exploration of technologies and innovations in Earth-system science. Webinars and workshops were given by nationally recognized climate scientists, educators and communicators, and attendees learned about sea level rise, impacts to fisheries and habitats, using models to teach climate change, framing conversations about climate change, severe weather, coastal resilience, water resources, and climate games. Post webinar and workshop evaluations showed that 98% of all attendees learned from their experiences and 94% planned to use what they learned in their work over the next year, sharing the information and resources they received with over 82,645 colleagues, youth and adults.


Games for Climate Change

Groups of students and teachers playtest climate games at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Groups of students and teachers playtest climate games at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

As part of the Climate Education and Literacy Initiative (OSTP) NOS sponsored two National Climate Game Jams in FY16 through a network of federal agencies, universities, schools and informal institutions. Students in grades 5-16 and adults were challenged to develop game prototypes related to the impacts of climate change. Kickoff events at the White House and at the California Academy of Science on October 2 challenged the participants at 11 locations to develop engaging digital and analog games for many ages. 30 games were developed over the 48-hour time period and submitted for judging by game and climate experts. Winners were invited to the National Museum of Natural History to showcase and playtest their designs. Prototype ideas included a role-playing game that put the player in the position of a coral farmer working to restore a damaged coral reef, a board game that challenges players to manage resources, and a habitat game about how migration forced by climate change affects territorial interactions of owls. A second game jam was held April 16 - 24, 2016 at 9 sites, resulting in 17 game submissions focused on the unique challenges climate will bring to water resources. Game jams offer students and adults opportunities to interact with climate and game experts to learn about the impacts of climate change and resilience through science-based experiences.


NOS Reaches Larger Audience with Web, Social Media

NOS uses its online presence to reach the ocean-interested public. Traffic to the NOS website increased 38% during FY 2016 compared to FY 2016; monthly website traffic peaked at an all-time high 2.4 million visits in May, 2016. The number of Facebook “likes” grew more than 57% (from 64,413 to 101,262) and the number of Twitter followers grew more than 13% (from 129,480 to 146,820). During its 30-day National Ocean Month campaign, NOS reached more than 1.4 million users on Facebook.  Also in FY 2016, NOS completed several Reddit 'Ask Us Anything' sessions featuring NOS scientists. The AUA on Harmful Algal Blooms reached an estimated 10.36 million people and included more than 180 questions.  NOS launched its Instagram in June 2016, which closed out FY 2016 with 13,060 followers.  

NOS Priority: Coastal Resilience
NOS Accomplishments