Meet William Sweet

Oceanographer, Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services

William Sweet

I study long records of water level data collected around the U.S. and decipher important cycles, patterns and trends which directly impact coastal communities. I am now focused on how the frequency of “nuisance” tidal flooding has been changing over the last century and framing possible “futures” under continued and accelerated sea level rise projections.

What do you like most about working at NOS?

The long high-quality data sets really provide an opportunity to do world-class science and develop public-serving tools. Working for NOAA and NOS specifically provides a unique platform to tell the important story.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Without a doubt, it is sitting all day behind my computer!

What is your educational background?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master’s and Ph.D. in Oceanography from North Carolina State University.

What inspired your interest in the ocean and coasts?

Looking back, it probably stems from times spent on the water – creeks, rivers and the coast. I became aware and concerned about the factors affecting water quality that progressively worsened downstream within the rivers and bays in which I was recreating. I decided I wanted to get involved somehow.

How did you end up working at NOAA?

I worked for years deploying real-time buoys under a NOAA contract, and during this time I became aware of the variety of important work that NOAA undertakes and supervises. A few years later, I found an opening, applied, impressed, and the rest is history...

What advice do you have for young people wanting a career in the "ocean realm"?

Get your foot in the door by volunteering or working part-time with local groups or colleges that offer ocean-related experiences. A hands-on understanding not only teaches you about the methods used to study the ocean environment and its creatures and processes, but also builds the confidence and experience to ask and answer your own questions.

What is the most interesting/important thing you've learned while working at NOAA?

NOAA water level gauges have been measuring tides, storm surges and long-term changes in sea levels for over a century. Bob Dylan did not sing, “the tides, they are a changing”…but they are, and it is important to recognize that change is underway and challenges lie ahead.