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Weekly News: May 2008
May 2008

May 30, 2008
May 23, 2008
May 16, 2008
May 9, 2008


May 30, 2008

Air Gap Sensor Installed as Part of NY/NJ PORTS
In partnership with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority of New York, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services has installed an air gap sensor on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York.  An air gap instrument accurately measures the distance from the bottom of a bridge to the surface of the water.  Changes in water level and the movement of the bridge are measured in response to changes in traffic load, temperature, and wind speed.  All of these data are collected, quality controlled in real-time, and updated for users every six minutes.  This information is critical for under-bridge clearance, as ships continue to maximize channel depths and widths while pushing the bounds of bridge heights.  Promoting safe and efficient navigation, this sensor will serve as yet another tool for the New York/New Jersey Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®).  For more information please contact, Darren Wright.

New Report on Coastal Waters Shows Decline in Contaminants
On May 12, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science released a 20-year study showing that environmental laws have had a positive effect on reducing overall contaminant levels in coastal waters of the United States.  However, the report points to continuing concerns with elevated levels of metals and organic contaminants found near urban and industrial areas of the coasts.  The report, “NOAA National Status and Trends Mussel Watch Program: An Assessment of Two Decades of Contaminant Monitoring in the Nation's Coastal Zone from 1986-2005,” is the first report to present national, regional, and local findings in a quick-reference format suitable for use by policy makers, scientists, resource managers, and the public.  The findings are the result of monitoring efforts that analyze 140 different chemicals in U.S. coastal and estuarine areas, including the Great Lakes.  The report is available online at  For more information, contact Gunnar Lauenstein or Kimani Kimbrough.

Plans to Update Coastal Zone Management Act Program Change Procedures
On May 20, NOAA published in the Federal Register an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking titled “Changes to the Coastal Zone Management Act Program Change Procedures, 73 Fed. Reg. 29093-29094 (May 20, 2008).”  Program changes are modifications to NOAA-approved components of State coastal zone management programs and new program components.  NOAA and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) are requesting input from states, federal agencies, and the public on revised program change regulations to establish a clearer and more efficient and transparent process for program change review.  Comments on the proposed changes can be submitted by mail or email and must be received by August 18, 2008.  Copies of the notice and all comments received will be posted on OCRM’s Web site.  For more information, contact  Kerry Kehoe or Carleigh Trappe.



May 23, 2008

New Tool Combines Weather Forecasts with Hazards Planning Data
The Southern California Weather and Hazards Data Viewer, a needs-based Internet mapping tool, helps users monitor coastal storms and visualize potential storm impacts and fire-related weather conditions.  Regularly updated weather data from the National Weather Service (NWS) National Digital Forecast Database are combined with hazards planning data in a geographic information system to allow users to assess associated hazards by displaying and animating forecasts for weather conditions such as waves, winds, temperature, humidity, and rainfall.  The NOAA Coastal Storms Program partnered with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in California and the NWS weather forecast offices of Los Angeles/Oxnard and San Diego to develop the tool, which is being transferred to the NWS Western Region Headquarters for hosting.  For more information, contact Billy Brooks.

Web Site Tracks Predicted New England Red Tide Outbreak
In response to the recent prediction by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science-supported scientists of a larger-than-normal harmful algal bloom in the Gulf of Maine this summer, NOAA re-launched the New England Red Tide Information Center Web site to provide updates on the location and extent of the “red tide.”  The algal species, Alexandrium, which produces a potent toxin that accumulates in shellfish and can cause illness in humans who eat contaminated seafood, usually begins to appear in Maine’s coastal waters in late April.  The Web site provides information and Web links to enable the public and the media to understand what a red tide is, required safety measures to follow, maps of closed shellfish harvesting areas, and how NOAA and its partners are responding to the situation.  For more information, contact Quay Dortch.

New Model Improves Prediction of Plate Tectonic Motion
To improve predictions of how points on the Earth’s surface have moved due to plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanic activity, the National Geodetic Survey recently released version 3.0 of the Horizontal Time-Dependent Positioning (HTDP3.0) software.  The software incorporates new data, including Global Positioning System-derived horizontal crustal velocities and information about movement along geologic faults, to allow significantly more accurate predictions of crustal velocities than those predicted with earlier HTDP versions.  HTDP3.0 also contains models for 29 earthquakes that have occurred in the United States since 1934.  Users may execute HTDP3.0 interactively at  Users can also access the HTDP software, the user guide, and other related information from this Web site.  For more information, contact Richard Snay.



May 16, 2008

Safe Sanctuaries Film Wins Award
“Safe Sanctuaries 2005,” a film showcasing NOAA's Emergency Response Program in the Safe Sanctuaries 2005 exercise, was one of two films recognized by the International Oil Spill Conference Film Festival.  The film was produced by NOAA's Ocean Media Center.  There were over 20 films competing in the festival from seven different countries.  All films were required to be reflective of the conference theme “Developing a Culture of Preparedness.”  The Safe Sanctuaries exercise was led by NOAA in March and April of 2005 in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  The exercise highlighted capabilities from across NOAA working in concert with state and U.S. Coast Guard counterparts.  To view the award-winning film on YouTube, visit: or  For more information, contact or

New Tool to Improve Monitoring of Fish Kills
Fish kills can signal the outbreak of disease, poor water quality, release of toxins, or other events that concern environmental managers, public health officials, and the public.  To help resource managers accurately detect and monitor the toxic algal species, K. veneficum, which causes fish kills along the eastern seaboard, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science researchers, in collaboration with University of Connecticut scientists, have developed a new molecular tool.  The new tool, which clearly distinguishes K. veneficum from similar algal species, will help resource managers determine if K. veneficum or another cause is responsible for a particular fish kill.  It also helps predict when this species is likely to bloom and when potentially toxic blooms are actually developing.  For more information, contact

15th PORTS Location Installed in Mississippi
The Port of Pascagoula, MS, has become the 15th location in the United States to install the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®).  PORTS®, developed and operated by the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, provides accurate real-time oceanographic and meteorological data to mariners, reducing the risk of vessel groundings as well as increasing the amount of cargo moving through a port.  PORTS® measures, integrates, and disseminates observations of water levels, currents, salinity, wind, and bridge clearance.  The Port of Pascagoula system will became officially operational on May 15.  While designed to be of service to the marine transportation community, PORTS® data are freely accessible online.  For more information, contact or



May 9, 2008

Regional Partner Launches Cross-Atlantic Glider Flight
During the week of May 12, regional partners of NOAA’s Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program plan to launch the first glider mission across the Atlantic Ocean, ultimately landing in Spain this fall.  The milestone is a coordination effort among the National Ocean Partnership Program, Puertos del Estado, and the U.S. IOOS through Rutgers University, a leader in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coastal Ocean Observing System.  The glider is a six-foot long, torpedo-shaped underwater robot that repeatedly dives to collect ocean and coastal data including temperature, salinity, and absorption and scattering of light.  These data are used to provide a bigger picture of the ocean environment so that decision makers can take action to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment.  For more information, contact

NOS Assists Texas in Addressing Unusual Harmful Algal Bloom
NOS organizations are supporting Texas coastal managers with an unusual harmful algal bloom (HAB) of Dinophysis.  The bloom was first detected in February by scientists using the Imaging FlowCytobot— an innovative HAB early warning system—at the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.  Based on this early warning, the Texas Department of State Health Services evaluated water and oyster samples and issued a recall of Texas oysters, clams, and mussels.  The Aransas, Corpus Christi, and Copano bays were also closed for shellfish harvesting.  The demonstration of the Imaging FlowCytobot is supported by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology, a partnership of the Office of Coastal Resource Management and the University of New Hampshire.  The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science continue monitoring and analysis to enable the state to determine when it is safe to reopen shellfish beds.  For more information, contact,, or

Accuracy Assessment of Airborne LIDAR
As part of the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping pilot project, high-accuracy elevation data will be collected around the marshes of the Currituck Bank component of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve.  This elevation data will provide an accuracy assessment for the LIDAR data collected in March 2008.  In addition to the marsh elevations, height data of the marsh vegetation will be collected to assist in identifying vegetation patches within the LIDAR scenes.  The outcome of the investigation will provide important evidence to assess the penetrability of airborne LIDAR down to the bare earth in marsh areas.  For more information, contact


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