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Diving Deeper Shorts: Benefits of Ocean Observing Data

Episode 15 (Nov. 3, 2011)

HOST: Today on Diving Deeper Shorts, we revisit our interview on the benefits of ocean observing data from January 2010 with Zdenka Willis from NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System Program.

Let's listen in.

HOST: Zdenka, first, can you remind our listeners why we need to or why we should observe our oceans and coasts?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Certainly, Kate. We need to observe our oceans and coasts to better understand what's happening and what's changing. Once we have that initial understanding, then we can increase the nation's ability to keep our people safe, our economy secure, and our environment healthy and productive.

HOST: Well that sounds like a tall order for one system, but I can really understand the importance of having something like this. Can you maybe give us an example of how we benefit by using IOOS data?

ZDENKA WILLIS: Kate, I'd be happy to. You know, we're really looking at compatible, easy access to all kinds of data and information from multiple sources. I had a chance to talk to Jared. Jared's a lobstermen up in the New England area. He has a 42-foot boat. He counts on those buoys to take a look at the weather and the ocean conditions so that he knows whether it's safe to take his crew out to be able to catch lobster which is livelihood for them. We work with Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources and they rely on IOOS-derived shoreline maps to plan for and respond to storm surge, flash floods, and sea level rise.

In our southeastern region, they teamed up with NOAA's National Weather Service to put a marine portal together. So they take all the observations that are collected both at the federal level and at that regional level and they put them together. That helps the National Weather Service to do better forecasts and even more important more accurate hazards warnings like small craft. In the Great Lakes we've developed models that display real-time and forecasted waterway data in the corridors between Lake Huron and Erie in southeast Michigan. And these applications directly support decision making related to drinking water intakes and any pollution or spill problems we would have in that area.

Turning to industry. Certainly easier, better access to ocean and coastal data is important for our ability to understand those seasonal forecasts. Two examples I think of are both Home Depot and Walmart. They have to make their buying decisions based on those seasonal forecasts. So six months out do they stock hurricane supplies or do they stock beach towels.

That's all for today's Diving Deeper Shorts, where we highlight a few minutes of your favorite Diving Deeper episodes.

Want to learn more? Go to and select the January 2010 podcast archive to listen to the full interview with Zdenka Willis on the benefits of ocean observing data.

You can catch our next episode in two weeks.