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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Weather data from nation’s largest wind farms could improve U.S. models, forecasts

November 14, 2012

NOAA Office of Education’s Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program participants.

Two of the nation’s largest producers of wind-generated electric power will share privately-collected weather data with NOAA, providing agency scientists with additional observations from wind farms across the nation for research and operations.

NOAA now has data sharing agreements with Iberdrola Renewables of Portland, Ore., and NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Fla.—the country’s two largest generators of wind-generated electric power, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The companies will provide valuable weather observations from instrumented towers in their wind farms and wind speed data from instruments atop wind turbines. Since 2011, Xcel Energy of Minneapolis, Minn. has provided similar observations to NOAA.

“We appreciate this opportunity to work with industry and are eager to start similar data sharing agreements with other industry partners,” said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and NOAA deputy administrator. “Everyone who uses weather information will benefit from these additional data. These observations are made at altitudes that are not routinely observed. The more information we are able to collect leads to more accurate predictions.”

NOAA will use these weather observations in operational model forecasts produced by NOAA’s National Weather Service. Wind data at these heights are not routinely observed and are of great interest to many industries and researchers involved in renewable energy, aviation, and air quality.

While the observations are business-sensitive and will not be redistributed outside of NOAA, the agency’s scientists will use the data to validate and improve weather models at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

“NextEra Energy recognizes that a better NOAA weather forecast will ultimately improve our operational decisions and our bottom line,” said Mark Ahlstrom, CEO for WindLogics, a NextEra Energy Resources subsidiary that also contributed data to NOAA. “Sharing data with NOAA makes sense because it helps NOAA deliver better forecasts for use by our company and the general public.”

Jerry Crescenti, Director of Meteorology for Iberdrola Renewables, added, “When it comes to observations, you can never have enough. Hopefully, other wind energy companies will consider securely providing their weather observations to NOAA to improve the foundational forecasts for all in the industry.”

NextEra Energy Resources is a clean energy leader and one of the largest competitive energy suppliers in North America, operating in 22 states and Canada as of year-end 2011. A subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), NextEra Energy Resources is the largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun in the United States, owning and operating approximately 8,569 megawatts of wind and 158 megawatts of solar power generation at the end of 2011.

Iberdrola Renewables, LLC is the U.S. renewable energy division of parent company IBERDROLA, S.A., an energy pioneer with the largest renewable asset base of any company in the world. Iberdrola Renewables, LLC is headquartered in Portland, Ore., and has over $9 billion of operating assets totaling more than 5,000 megawatts of wind and solar generation.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Study finds ocean acidification accelerated in nutrient rich areas

September 24, 2012

Carbon dioxide released from decaying algal blooms, combined with ongoing increases in atmospheric carbon emissions, leads to increased levels of ocean acidification, and places additional stress on marine resources and the coastal economies that depend on them, according to a new study published today.

Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or from the breakdown of organic matter, which then causes a chemical reaction to make it more acidic. Species as diverse as scallops and corals are vulnerable to ocean acidification, which can affect the growth of their shells and skeletons.

Research by NOAA's William G. Sunda and Wei-jun Cai of the University of Georgia points to the process of eutrophication - the production of excess algae from increased nutrients, such as, nitrogen and phosphorus -- as a large, often overlooked source of CO2 in coastal waters. When combined with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, the release of CO2 from decaying organic matter is accelerating the acidification of coastal seawater.

The effects of ocean acidification on the nation's seafood industry are seen in the Pacific Northwest oyster fishery. According to NOAA, ocean acidification is affecting oyster shell growth and reproduction, putting this multi-million dollar industry at risk. Annually, the Pacific Northwest oyster fishery contributes $84 million to $111 million to the West Coast's economy. According to an earlier NOAA study ocean acidification could put more than 3,000 jobs in the region at risk.

Sunda and Cai used a new chemical model to predict the increase in acidity of coastal waters over a range of salinities, temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations. They found that the combined interactive effects on acidity from increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and CO2 released from the breakdown of organic matter were quite complex, and varied with water temperature, salinity and with atmospheric CO2.

"These interactions have important biological implications in a warming world with increasing atmospheric CO2," said Sunda. "The combined effects of the two acidification processes, along with increased nutrient loading of nearshore waters, are reducing the time available to coastal managers to adopt approaches to avoid or minimize harmful impacts to critical ecosystem services such as fisheries and tourism."

Sunda and Cai found that, given current atmospheric CO2 concentrations and projected CO2 released from organic matter decay, seawater acidity could nearly double in waters with higher salinity and temperature, and could rise as much as 12 times current levels in waters with lower salinity and lower temperature.

These model predictions were verified with measured acidity data from the northern Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea, two eutrophic coastal systems with large temperature and salinity differences, which experience large-scale algal blooms. The observed and modeled increases in acidity from eutrophication and algal decay are well within the range that can harm marine organisms.

Funding support for the research came from the National Science Foundation, NASA and NOAA. The study can be found in this month's edition of the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science and Technology journal.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Research reveals bottom feeding techniques of tagged humpback whales in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Contact: Vernon Smith, 301-713-7248
Anne Smrcina, 781-545-8026 x204 Research reveals bottom feeding techniques of tagged humpback whales in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

New NOAA-led research on tagged humpback whales in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary reveals a variety of previously unknown feeding techniques along the seafloor. Rather than a single bottom feeding behavior, the whales show three distinct feeding approaches: simple side-rolls, side-roll inversions, and repetitive scooping.

A recently published paper, in the journal Marine Mammal Science, indicates that bottom side-roll techniques are common in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Great South Channel study area, a deep-water passage between Nantucket, Mass. and Georges Bank-further southeast.

The study further states that the observed feeding behavior also leads to vulnerability to entanglement in bottom set fishing gear, an issue which is a major mortality factor for the species. This finding reaffirms a NOAA Fisheries regulation that mandates the use of sinking line between fishing traps used in the lobster fishery as a way of reducing entanglements.

The new findings follow earlier NOAA-led studies detailing so-called "bubble net" feeding behaviors near and at the surface. Bubble net feeding is a behavior in which humpback whales corral and contain fish into a small area by trapping them in nets of air bubbles so they can more efficiently scoop them up in their large filter-feeding mouths.The behaviors are used by individual animals and as part of coordinated feeding behaviors involving two or more animals.

"Tagging technology is allowing us to observe whales underwater, much as land-based biologists study animal subjects in their specific environments," said David Wiley, sanctuary research coordinator and a co-author on the paper. "The data have allowed us to detect new feeding techniques as well as nuances in those behaviors. We have determined that bottom feeding is a much more commonly used technique than the more well known bubble net behaviors."

Bottom side-rolling feeding was previously hypothesized from observations of scars on the jaws of humpback whales and from earlier tagging projects. In the recent studies, researchers showed that this behavior happens for extensive periods of time at or near the seafloor, that it occurs in the presence of concentrations of sand lance (a preferred prey fish), and that the behavior is accompanied by the expansion of the animal's ventral (throat) pleats.

Information was collected through the use of DTAGs (synchronous motion and acoustic recording tags) and Crittercam™, National Geographic Society's underwater video and audio recording system.

Humpback whale with a scrape on its rostrum. Scientists say injuries such as this one are sometimes a result from bottom-feeding. (Credit: NOAA/Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary )"By visualizing the data with TrackPlot, we can actually see how the whale moves underwater and this enables us to discover different kinds of foraging behaviors," said lead author Colin Ware of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. TrackPlot is a custom software tool for DTAG data that produces a ribbon-like image in three dimensions. "With these 3-D visualizations, we can follow the path of the whale from surface to seafloor along with all of the pitch, roll and heading changes while underway. By adding Crittercam video, we now get a more complete understanding of these various bottom feeding techniques," Ware said.

A side-roll is defined as a roll of between 45 and 135 degrees from a normal orientation along the seafloor - the most common version uses a 90 degree roll with a downward head pitch of about 30 degrees, which matches favorably with earlier speculative sketches of bottom feeding. A side-roll inversion involves rolls that continue past the 135 degree orientation position. One humpback used a technique that employed a repetitive sequence of moves approximately every 20 feet during which the animal rolled from a 90 degree position to an inverted position, with some 10 to 17 of these "scoops" per dive.

The whale's body orientation during bottom side-roll feeding is depicted in this computer-generated image. (Credit: Colin Ware, University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping)Sand lance, also known as sand eels, tend to burrow into the sandy sediments at night or form nighttime horizontal schools close to the seafloor. In addition, Crittercam footage indicates that sand lance can form dense mats along the seabed during the day. The side roll feeding technique with extended pleats emphasizes width rather than height, resulting in more efficient feeding when encountering prey at or near the seafloor. Coordinated feeding may also help cluster prey or simply ensure that it does not escape. Crittercam footage also showed for the first time a head-to-head orientation for two animals that were side-rolling at the seafloor.

While this humpback bottom feeding behavior occurs at relatively slow speeds, it does involve the expansion of ventral pleats, which was once thought to require high speeds, as in lunging. The researchers theorize that humpback side rolls may be similar to the feeding technique of gray whales in the Pacific. The three types of bottom feeding techniques may be due to different prey distributions or may just reflect individual preferences between whales. In this 3D computer visualization, the roller coaster-like movement of a tagged humpback whale in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is captured over a nearly two-hour period. The whale traveled at depths ranging from 30 to 150 feet deep. The red and blue triangles along the ribbon show the whale's powerful fluke, or tail fin strokes that propel it through the water. The yellow sections along the ribbons indicate where bottom side-roll feeding occurs. (Credit: Colin Ware, University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping)

Funding and additional support came from NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, NOAA-University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, Office of Naval Research, National Oceanographic Partnership Program, Duke University Marine Laboratory, National Geographic Society, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Pacific Life Foundation and the Volgenau Foundation.

Designated in 1992, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its scenic beauty and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary supports a rich diversity of marine life including endangered great whales, seabirds, more than 60 species of fishes and hundreds of marine invertebrates.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on
Facebook,link leaves government site Twitterlink leaves government site and our other social media channels.


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Monday, December 2, 2013

New European satellite key for weather, climate prediction

September 17, 2012

Metop-B.

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) launched its second of three polar-orbiting satellites today. Information from Metop-B will complement data provided by NOAA's polar-orbiting satellites.

High resolution (Credit: EUMETSAT)

Today’s launch of a European environmental satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan will enable NOAA to continue capturing data that feed sophisticated, numerical prediction models used to forecast weather and climate in the United States, according to the agency’s top satellite official.

The Metop-B spacecraft is the second of three polar-orbiting satellites launched by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), a NOAA partner.

“This launch is another milestone in a partnership that continues our wide-ranging ability to detect the early signs of severe weather, climate shifts and distress signals from emergency beacons in the U.S., Europe and around the world,” said Mary Kizca, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

In 1998, the two agencies forged a partnership, known as the U.S. – European Initial Joint Polar System, (IJPS), in which NOAA and EUMETSAT agreed to fly sensors on each agency’s respective polar-orbiting satellites that circle the globe 14 times a day, but in different orbits. The Metop satellites fly in the mid-morning orbit, and NOAA’s polar-orbiting environmental satellites, which are the U.S. contribution to the IJPS agreement, circle the Earth in the afternoon orbit.

Together, EUMETSAT’s Metop satellites and NOAA’s polar-orbiting spacecraft provide the majority of global data for numerical weather forecasts, and provide observations that help predict environmental phenomena, including: wildfires, volcanic eruptions, snow cover, sea ice, vegetation health, sea surface temperatures, and disaster mitigation. Each agency’s satellites carry similar sets of sensors -- some used for forecasting, others for assessing surface conditions.

The Metop satellites include advanced sensors for greater accuracy of atmospheric temperature, water vapor and ozone soundings, which are vital for improving weather forecasts, and special sensors for search and rescue operations. NOAA has comparable sounding capabilities on its next-generation of polar-orbiting satellites, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS).

NOAA provides five of the joint instruments on board the satellites and EUMETSAT developed and provides NOAA with the Microwave Humidity Sounder, which monitors water content in clouds and estimates the rate of precipitation.  NASA, on behalf of NOAA, manages the development, testing and integration of the five U.S. instruments that are flying on Metop-B.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Researchers join large, international flash flood project in Europe

September 12, 2012

Mobile radar.

Over the next three months, NOAA researchers will operate a mobile radar, NOAA - XPol (NOXP), in southeast France as part of the HyMeX Experiment, the largest weather field research project in European history. 

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA, NASA and the University of Connecticut are representing the United States in the Hydrological Cycle in the Mediterranean Experiment (HyMeX), the largest weather field research project in European history.   

HyMex is a 10-year international effort to better understand, quantify and model the hydrologic cycle in support of improved forecasts and warnings of flash floods in the Mediterranean region.

The project targets central Italy, southern France, the Balearic Islands, Corsica and northern Italy — all areas particularly susceptible to devastating flash flood events. Improved understanding of the land, atmosphere and ocean interactions that contribute to flash flooding in this part of the world will advance the state of the science that will ultimately be represented in forecast models with application in the United States. 

NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) researchers will operate a mobile radar, NOAA - XPol (NOXP), in southeast France from Sept. 10 to Nov. 10. This is the first of several special observation periods during the HyMeX 10-year timeframe. Additionally, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service is sponsoring scientists from New Mexico Tech to operate and evaluate a Lightning Mapping Array during HyMeX to support product development and validation for the future Geostationary Lightning Mapper on NOAA’s GOES-R satellite, which is scheduled to launch in late 2015.

The radar will provide high-resolution data and low altitude scans to help determine the size of the raindrops, the intensity of rainfall, and rainfall rates to help predict flash flooding conditions in the Cévennes Vivarais region of France.

Mobile radar.

A catastrophic flood event threatened the ancient Roman aqueduct bridge Pont du Gard in southern France in September 2002. The HyMex Experiment could help local officials in the Mediterranean region improve forecasts and warnings of flash floods. 

(Credit: Cévennes Vivarais Mediterranean Hydro-meteorological Observatory)

During autumn, onshore moisture from the Mediterranean Sea encounters the 5,000-feet high Cévennes Mountains in southeast France making numerous towns and villages particularly subject to severe flash flood events.

“Data collected in the air, at sea and on land will shed light on how catastrophic flash-flooding events begin, which may help local officials better prepare for and respond to these types of emergencies,” said Jonathan Gourley, Ph.D., an NSSL research hydrologist.

Other sensors include three instrumented research aircraft, three research ships, buoys, ocean sensors, additional mobile precipitation radars, cloud radars and microradars, hundreds of rain gauges, ten disdrometers (to measure size and speed of individual raindrops), a dozen lidars, sonar, instrumented balloons, wind profilers, and a lightning mapping array.

NSSL’s participation in HyMeX is sponsored by MétéoFrance, and operations are coordinated with the Cévennes-Vivarais Mediterranean Hydro-Meteorological Observatory, The University of Grenoble, NASA, University of Connecticut and Cemagraf.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Saturday, November 30, 2013

University of Colorado-Boulder to lead Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences

August 30, 2012

University of Colorado Boulder.

The University of Colorado Boulder has received a NOAA award to continue the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), pictured here on the university campus, for at least five more years. CIRES research helps improve our knowledge of climate change, improve weather models, and better predict how solar storms can disrupt communication and navigation technologies.

High resolution (Credit:CIRES/University of Colorado.)

NOAA has selected the University of Colorado-Boulder to continue a federal/academic partnership that extends NOAA’s ability to study climate change, improve weather models, and better predict how solar storms can disrupt communication and navigation technologies.

The selection means that NOAA will continue funding the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), which was established at the University of Colorado in 1967, for at least five and up to 10 more years.

The amount of the award is contingent on the availability of funding in the federal budget, but NOAA anticipates that up to $32 million may be available annually. Total NOAA funding is variable from year to year and is based on the number of projects the university proposes and NOAA approves.

Following a competitive process, NOAA selected the University of Colorado to administer the CIRES partnership which leverages university resources to expand understanding of the Earth system—the interrelationships between the atmosphere, oceans, land, living things, and the sun’s energy.

“Improving our understanding of the Earth system is critically important as the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is forcing changes in all of its processes,” said Robert Detrick, Ph.D., assistant NOAA administrator for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and     chairman of the NOAA Research Council. “The University of Colorado has been an excellent partner to NOAA in pursuing this mission.”

NOAA’s first cooperative institute, CIRES is marking its 45th anniversary this year and is now one of 18 NOAA cooperative institutes nationwide. NOAA competitively funds cooperative institutes at universities with strong research programs relevant to NOAA’s mission. These institutes provide resources and opportunities that extend beyond the agency’s own research capacity.

“With pressing issues like air quality, climate change and space weather now at the forefront globally, the University of Colorado Boulder is eager to continue this crucial partnership with NOAA,” said University of Colorado Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture. “CIRES is known around the world for advancing our understanding of the complex Earth system and as a premier institution in educating the next generation of environmental scientists.”

The partnership allows researchers at the University of Colorado to receive support for research projects that may involve NOAA scientists, primarily at the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., as well as other NOAA cooperative institutes.

The CIRES partnership will focus on nine research themes:

Air quality in a changing environmentClimate change mechanisms and analysisEarth systems dynamics, variability and changeManagement and exploitation of geophysical dataRegional science and applicationsScientific outreach and educationSpace weather understanding and predictabilityStratospheric processes and trendsComputer model development

NOAA supports cooperative institutes to conduct research, education, training, and outreach aligned with its mission. Cooperative institutes also promote the involvement of students and post-doctoral scientists in NOAA-funded research. This unique setting provides NOAA the benefit of working with complimentary capabilities of a research institution that contribute to NOAA-related sciences ranging from satellite climatology and fisheries biology to atmospheric chemistry and coastal ecology. For more information, visit http://nrc.noaa.gov/ci/.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels. More information about NOAA is available at: http://www.noaa.gov.


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Friday, November 29, 2013

New committee will advise federal leaders on integrating ocean observation systems

August 20, 2012

The IOOS is a federal, regional, and private-sector partnership working to enhance our ability to collect, deliver, and use ocean information.

The IOOS is a federal, regional, and private-sector partnership working to enhance our ability to collect, deliver, and use ocean information.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

A new committee to advise federal leaders on integrating the nation’s ocean observing systems  that collect and deliver ocean information will meet for the first time later this month in Washington. The meeting will be open to the public.

The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) Federal Advisory Committee was created to evaluate scientific and technical information related to design, operation, maintenance and use of IOOS including how to improve it in the future. The committee will provide its expert advice to Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, as well as to the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee, a separate group comprised of federal agency partners who collectively oversee IOOS development.

IOOS is a federal, regional and private-sector partnership working to enhance the nation’s ability to collect, deliver and use ocean information. IOOS delivers data and information needed to increase understanding of our oceans and coasts, so that decision-makers can act to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect our environment.

“Everyone relies on ocean and coastal data and information, whether they realize it or not,” said Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., chair of the committee and vice president for research at Oregon State University. “These data inform daily weather reports, ensure national and homeland security, help us determine if seafood is safe, and guide cargo ships loaded with goods we will buy at the store. Leading this committee is an important and exciting task to take on.”

Lubchenco appointed 13 inaugural members to the committee who were chosen to represent diverse areas of expertise across different sectors and geographic regions.

“This committee is made up of some of the best minds from all sectors in the field of ocean observations and with the committee’s energy we’ll take a major step forward to increasing access to and improving the way our nation does business in regards to ocean observations,” said Zdenka Willis, U.S. IOOS program director, who serves as the committee’s designated federal officer. “I’m really looking forward to working with this group to serve the nation and improve citizen safety, the economy, and environment.”

Committee members:

Rick Spinrad – Oregon State University, former NOAA assistant administrator for National Ocean Service and assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (committee chair)C.J. Beegle-Krause – Environmental Research for DecisionTerence Browne – Collins Engineers, Inc.Tom Gulbransen – Battelle Memorial InstituteAnn Jochens – Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing SystemVal Klump – Great Lakes WATER (Wisconsin Aquatic Technology and Environmental Research) Institute, University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeLynn Leonard – University of North Carolina at WilmingtonJustin Manley – Teledyne Benthos, Inc.LaVerne Ragster – University of the Virgin IslandsTony MacDonald – Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth UniversityChris Ostrander – Pacific Islands Ocean Observing SystemEmily Pidegon – Conservation InternationalEric Terrill – Scripps Institution of Oceanography

NOAA established the committee in July as outlined by the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act. More information on the group and the upcoming meeting on August 29 and 30, is available online.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels. More information about NOAA is available at: http://www.noaa.gov.


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Thursday, November 28, 2013

NOAA proposes listing 66 reef-building coral species under the Endangered Species Act

November 30, 2012

Corals under water

Pillar coral stand in the Upper Keys with blue-headed wrasse (yellow fish)

Download here. (Credit: NOAA.)

In compliance with a federal court ordered deadline, and consistent with existing international protections, NOAA Fisheries announced today that it is proposing Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings for 66 coral species, including 59 in the Pacific and seven in the Caribbean. This science-based proposal is more limited than the 2009 original petition that led to a settlement agreement and the court order. In order to ensure robust input, NOAA has been engaging the public since the process began three years ago. Before this proposed listing is finalized in late 2013, there will be a 90-day public comment period during which NOAA will hold 18 public meetings.

Earlier this year, the President directed that any potential future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens. Therefore, any potential future critical habitat designation in connection with today’s proposed listing will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and to the extent permitted by law, adopt the least burdensome means, including avoidance of unnecessary burdens and costs on states, tribes, localities, and the private sector of promoting compliance with the ESA. As this process moves forward, NOAA will work with stakeholders to minimize any potential impacts of possible future action on the economy and jobs and, in particular, on construction, fishing, farming, shipping, and other important sectors.

Corals under water

Elkhorn coral is an icon of the Florida Keys, but was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2006.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA.)

“Healthy coral reefs are among the most economically valuable and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary for commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Corals provide habitat to support fisheries that feed millions of people; generate jobs and income to local economies through recreation, tourism, and fisheries; and protect coastlines from storms and erosion. Yet, scientific research indicates that climate change and other activities are putting these corals at risk. This is an important, sensible next step toward preserving the benefits provided by these species, both now and into the future.”

NOAA is proposing seven species as endangered and 52 as threatened in the Pacific, and five as endangered and two as threatened in the Caribbean. In addition, the agency is proposing that two Caribbean species already listed under the Act be reclassified from threatened to endangered. NOAA is seeking public comment on the proposed listing before making a final listing decision by December 2013.

Corals have measurable economic value for communities around the world. One independent study reported that coral reefs provide approximate $483 million in annual net benefit to the U.S. economy from tourism and recreation activities and a combined annual net benefit from all goods and services of about $1.1 billion. NOAA also estimates the annual commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs to be more than $100 million; reef-based recreational fisheries generate an additional $100 million annually.

Listing species as endangered does not prohibit activities like fishing or diving, but prohibits the specific “take” of those species, including harming, wounding, killing, or collecting the species. It also prohibits imports, exports, and commercial activities dealing in the species. These protections are not automatic for species listed as threatened, but can be established for them as well. Furthermore, if species are eventually listed, NOAA will consult with other federal agencies that permit projects that may harm corals to help avoid further damage. The consultation process allows NOAA to work with federal agencies and project proponents to develop ways for projects to proceed, but in a way that protects the long-term health of these important species.

NOAA has identified 19 threats to the survival of coral, including rising ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, and coral disease. As carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, the oceans warm beyond what corals can withstand, leading to bleaching, and the frequency and severity of disease outbreaks increase, causing die-offs.

This proposed listing is in response to a 2009 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list 83 coral species as threatened or endangered under the ESA. In 2011, NOAA and the CBD entered into a stipulated settlement agreement requiring NOAA to submit for publication a proposal as to 82 of the 83 coral species by April 15, 2012. In March 2012, the District Court for the Northern District of California approved an amended settlement agreement ordering NOAA to submit a proposal regarding the 82 coral species on or before December 1, 2012. All of these coral species being proposed for listing are already protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

NOAA used the best available scientific information to assess the status of the species and decide if the species met the ESA’s definitions of endangered or threatened. Earlier this year, after publication of a peer-reviewed status review report and a draft management report, NOAA took an additional step of seeking public comment prior to proposing the listing. NOAA received approximately 42,000 comments and collected 400 relevant scientific articles, reports, or presentations, which were all considered when making the proposed determination.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

For more information, background documents, and instructions on submitting comments, go to http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/2012/11/82corals.html


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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ocean and coastal observing technology efforts awarded $27.2 million

September 30, 2013

IOOS is a federal, regional, and private-sector partnership working to enhance our ability to collect, deliver, and use ocean information.

IOOS is a federal, regional, and private-sector partnership working to enhance our ability to collect, deliver, and use ocean information.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA is awarding $27.2 million to sustain current critical ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes observing efforts and to support innovative marine sensor technologies, with a goal of helping us better understand our coastal and marine environment. The funding is provided through the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®), other federal agencies, and NOAA programs.

“IOOS brings federal and regional ocean observations together to give decision-makers the critical data they need to save lives and build their communities,” said Zdenka Willis, U.S. IOOS program director. “These awards will sustain those observations, and speed the transition of new promising technologies into the ocean, where they can serve our coastal communities day in and day out.”

Highlights of the awards

This year’s awards include $2.9 million for marine sensor innovation projects to enhance our understanding of the coastal and marine environment.  

$1 million to the Southeastern Universities Research Association to make operational the U.S. IOOS Coastal and Ocean Modeling Testbed, an infrastructure for the testing and improvement of non-federal and federal models and prediction tools;

$1 million to the Alliance for Coastal Technologies for technology transfer and accelerating development of promising new marine observing technologies;

$340,000 provided through the Northeast IOOS Regional Association in support of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and McLane Industries efforts to transition cutting-edge observing platforms monitoring the emergence of harmful algal blooms and improve harmful algal bloom forecasts in the Gulf of Maine;

$574,000 to fund projects in five IOOS Western regional associations. These projects will develop ocean acidification sensor technology to support West Coast and Alaska shellfish industry monitoring needs, improve measurements of the state of ocean acidification in the Pacific Islands, and develop workforce capacity to work with ocean acidification sensors.

In addition to the marine sensor innovation projects introduced this year, the U.S. IOOS awarded $24.3 million to sustain critical coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes efforts.  As part of this effort, the U.S. IOOS Program and NASA will continue to jointly fund, at $250,000 each per year, projects to improve satellite sea surface temperature data from existing and new sensors, produce a blended output of sea surface temperature data from U.S. and international datasets, and target these products for coastal applications and regional IOOS usage. The total breakdown of the $27.2 million is:

Alaska Ocean Observing System ($2.2 million)

Alliance for Coastal Technologies ($1 million)

Caribbean Regional Association ($1.6 million)

Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System ($2.3 million)

Gulf of Mexico Coastal Observing System ($1.5 million)

Great Lakes Observing System ($1.6 million)

Mid-Atlantic Regional Association for Coastal Ocean Observing Systems ($3 million)

Multi-sensor Improved Sea Surface Temperature ($500,000)

Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems ($3.1 million)

Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems ($2.4 million)

Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System ($2.2 million)

Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System ($2.3 million)

Southeastern Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association ($2.5 million)

Southeastern Universities Research Association ($1 million)

Funding supports NOAA's efforts to develop a national IOOS for tracking, predicting, managing and adapting to changes in the marine environment. IOOS delivers data and information needed to increase understanding of the Nation’s waters to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect our environment.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Manual for coastal managers gives tips on combating invasive lionfish

October 9, 2012

Scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and its partners teamed up to create the first ever guidelines for coastal managers to control the spread of invasive lionfish that are taking food and habitat from native fish that are important to the local ecology and economy.  Lionfish have no natural predators and are now found in waters from North Carolina south to Florida, the Caribbean, and all Gulf of Mexico states.

This new manual, Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management includes the best available science and practices for controlling lionfish in marine protected areas, national parks, and other conservation areas. By following suggestions in the new publication, resource managers can develop effective local control plans. The guide is available free online.

“Most ecologists and fishery managers believe that lionfish being introduced from the Pacific to the Atlantic is one of the major ecological disasters of the last two decades,” said James Morris Jr., Ph.D., NOAA ecologist at the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research who served as the book’s editor and author of two chapters. “What we have done is compile conventional and new ideas for lionfish control into one easily understood format.”

Among the suggestions to control lionfish in the manual are:

Managers should involve the entire community — including fishers, dive operators, the public, and seafood industries — in their management plans.How often Lionfish need to be removed can vary widely depending on their habitat.Events such as lionfish fishing derbies can remove large numbers of the species in short periods of time.

Today lionfish are found in nearly all marine habitats in the Atlantic along the Southeast United States and in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean waters. Densities of lionfish have surpassed some native reef fish in many locations. The ecological impacts of this invasion are far-reaching — from disruptions to the structure and function of reef communities to impacts on commercial fishing and the tourism industry.

“Invasive lionfish pose a clear and present threat to coastal marine ecosystems and fisheries of the tropical Western Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico,” said Mark Hixon, Ph.D., a prominent coral reef ecologist of Oregon State University. ”This new guide is a comprehensive compendium of up-to-date information for understanding and effectively addressing this worst of marine invasions.”

Specific impacts of lionfish include consumption of ecologically important species such as algae eaters that keep algae in check on coral reefs. On heavily invaded reefs, lionfish are also capable of removing more than 60 percent of prey fish, some of which include economically important species like snapper and grouper.

Scientists from NCCOS collaborated with many international experts from multiple partners including the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, Reef Environmental Education Foundation, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, Simon Fraser University of Vancouver, the United Nations Caribbean Environmental Program, and Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, to develop the publication.

More information on NOAAs lionfish research programs can be found online.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Monday, November 25, 2013

Military vets to help rebuild northern California fisheries

September 5, 2012

Veterans will get a chance to train and work on habitat restoration and fisheries monitoring through a project funded by NOAA and administered in partnership with the California Conservation Corps and California’s Department of Fish and Game.

During the yearlong program of paid training and hands-on experience, veterans will spend part of the time on habitat restoration and will also receive training and experience in firefighting and reducing fire hazards.

“This is a win-win for everyone,” said Eric Schwaab, NOAA’s assistant administrator for fisheries. “Military veterans have tremendous skills to offer, and by helping to restore fish habitats they will be supporting the important role of commercial and recreational fishing in the economy. Restoration jobs pay dividends twice, first because they put people to work immediately, and then because restoration benefits our fisheries, tourism, and coastal communities for years to come.”

Veterans will start the program by taking courses in how to collect data and evaluate the effectiveness of coastal and marine habitat restoration. By mid- to late October, they will begin monitoring several river restoration sites in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Mendocino counties that were designed to increase spawning and rearing habitat for populations of endangered coho salmon in accordance with the recovery plan developed under the Endangered Species Act. The restored habitat should also help boost populations of Chinook and steelhead trout as well as improve environmental quality generally.

"We're excited about the new veterans’ fisheries crew getting underway,” said David Muraki, director of the California Conservation Corps, a state agency that provides employment and training for youth ages 18 to 25. “We've had success with other veterans’ crews that focused on firefighting and energy technology. This will be our first foray into using military veterans for habitat restoration.”

"Our veterans have earned our thanks and our support," said California Department of Fish and Game Director Charlton H. Bonham. "California's ocean and river resources are part of our national heritage, and we are privileged to be able to offer some of these veterans jobs in restoration and conservation."

By providing meaningful training and work experiences in conservation, the project aligns with several Obama Administration initiatives, including the Veterans Job Corps Initiative and America’s Great Outdoors, which calls for the development of a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps to help protect, restore, and enhance the outdoor environment. It is also part of NOAA’s effort to implement the National Ocean Policy, which calls for establishing a coastal conservation corps network. The program also works toward the same goals as Joining Forces, a comprehensive national initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and
support they have earned.

Veterans interested in joining the fisheries crew should contact the California Conservation Corps’ Tina Ratcliff at 916-341-3123 or tina.ratcliff@ccc.ca.gov before training begins on Monday, September 17.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels. More information about NOAA is available at: http://www.noaa.gov.


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Sunday, November 24, 2013

New study suggests coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate change

October 29, 2013

coral bleaching.

A new modeling study shows that widespread bleaching events like this one in Thailand in 2010 will become more common in the future. However, the study also found signs corals may be adapting to warming -- the question is if it can be fast enough to keep up with the rate humans are burning fossil fuels.

High resolution (Credit:C. Mark Eakin/NOAA )

Coral reefs may be able to adapt to moderate climate warming, improving their chance of surviving through the end of this century, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, according to a study funded by NOAA and conducted by the agency’s scientists and its academic partners. Results further suggest corals have already adapted to part of the warming that has occurred.

“Earlier modeling work suggested that coral reefs would be gone by the middle of this century. Our study shows that if corals can adapt to warming that has occurred over the past 40 to 60 years, some coral reefs may persist through the end of this century,” said study lead author Cheryl Logan, Ph.D., an assistant professor in California State University Monterey Bay’s Division of Science and Environmental Policy. The scientists from the university, and from the University of British Columbia, were NOAA’s partners in the study.

Warm water can contribute to a potentially fatal process known as coral “bleaching,” in which reef-building corals eject algae living inside their tissues. Corals bleach when oceans warm only 1-2°C (2-4°F) above normal summertime temperatures. Because those algae supply the coral with most of its food, prolonged bleaching and associated disease often kills corals.

The study, published online in the journal Global Change Biology, explores a range of possible coral adaptive responses to thermal stress previously identified by the scientific community. It suggests that coral reefs may be more resilient than previously thought due to past studies that did not consider effects of possible adaptation.

The study projected that, through genetic adaptation, the reefs could reduce the currently projected rate of temperature-induced bleaching by 20 to 80 percent of levels expected by the year 2100, if there are large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

“The hope this work brings is only achieved if there is significant reduction of human-related  emissions of heat-trapping gases,” said Mark Eakin, Ph.D., who serves as director of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch monitoring program, which tracks bleaching events worldwide. “Adaptation provides no significant slowing in the loss of coral reefs if we continue to increase our rate of fossil fuel use.”

“Not all species will be able to adapt fast enough or to the same extent, so coral communities will look and function differently than they do today,” CalState’s Logan said.

While this paper focuses on ocean warming, many other general threats to coral species have been documented to exist that affect their long-term survival, such as coral disease, acidification, and sedimentation. Other threats to corals are sea-level rise, pollution, storm damage, destructive fishing practices, and direct harvest for ornamental trade.

According to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2000 report, coral reefs have been lost around the world in recent decades with almost 20 percent of reefs lost globally to high temperatures during the 1998-1999 El Niño and La Niña and an 80 percent percent loss of coral cover in the Caribbean was documented in a 2003 Science paper. Both rates of decline have subsequently been documented in numerous other studies as an on-going trend.

Tropical coral reef ecosystems are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and provide economic and social stability to many nations in the form of food security, where reef fish provide both food and fishing jobs, and economic revenue from tourism. Mass coral bleaching and reef death has increased around the world over the past three decades, raising questions about the future of coral reef ecosystems.

In the study, researchers used global sea surface temperature output from the NOAA/GFDL Earth System Model-2 for the pre-industrial period though 2100 to project rates of coral bleaching.

Because initial results showed that past temperature increases should have bleached reefs more often than has actually occurred, researchers looked into ways that corals may be able to adapt to warming and delay the bleaching process.

The article calls for further research to test the rate and limit of different adaptive responses for coral species across latitudes and ocean basins to determine if, and how much, corals can actually respond to increasing thermal stress.

In addition to Logan, the other authors of the paper were John Dunne, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory; Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch; and Simon Donner, Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia. NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program funded the study.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.


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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Next generation geostationary satellite program undergoes successful review

November 28, 2012

The GOES-R Series Program, which is leading the effort to replace and upgrade NOAA’s existing fleet of geostationary satellites that track severe weather across the United States, received a favorable appraisal conducted by an external team of aerospace experts of its preparations to launch the new series, beginning in late 2015.

“Severe weather was again a major story in America this year,” said Mary Kicza, assistant administrator of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service. “Passing this Mission Critical Design Review gives us confidence that the GOES-R Program’s development is progressing well and will be ready to carry the latest technology to help improve NOAA’s weather forecasts.”

At all times, NOAA operates two Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites from a fixed position, 22,300 miles above the Earth. Additionally, NOAA keeps one GOES in orbital storage mode, ready to step in if one of the active satellites experiences trouble. NOAA’s geostationary satellites constantly monitor all weather conditions, from tornadoes, floods and snowstorms, to wildfires and developing tropical storms. In addition to their weather duties, GOES satellites also monitor solar activity, relay a wide variety of environmental data from earth-based observing systems, and detect emergency beacon signals from persons in distress.

NOAA’s GOES-13, which is the GOES East satellite, proved its mettle when Sandy threatened the Caribbean and the U.S., sending more than 1,200 images of the storm to NOAA forecasters, from October 20-31, as it approached -- and then impacted -- the Eastern seaboard.

NOAA manages the GOES-R Series Program through an integrated NOAA-NASA program office, staffed with personnel from NOAA and NASA, and co-located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The GOES-R satellites are expected to more than double the clarity of today’s GOES imagery and provide more atmospheric observations than current capabilities with more frequent images. Data from the GOES-R instruments will be used to create many different products that will help NOAA meteorologists and other users monitor the atmosphere, land, ocean and the sun. GOES-R will also carry a new Geostationary Lightning Mapper that will provide for the first time a continuous surveillance of total lightning activity throughout the Americas and adjacent oceans. 

“We’re just a few years away from seeing significant improvements in the way NOAA will serve the public with better weather forecasts and warnings,” said Greg Mandt, director of the GOES-R Series Program. “That’s something everyone should be excited about.”

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Friday, November 22, 2013

U.S. seafood landings reach 17-year high in 2011

September 19, 2012 (Revised effective October 5, 2012)

Dutch Harbor, the top port with the highest volume of catch this year.

Dutch Harbor, the top port with the highest volume of catch this year.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

U.S seafood landings reached a 14-year high in 2011, thanks in part to rebuilding fish populations, and the value of landings also increased, according to a new report released today by NOAA. 

According to the report, Fisheries of the United States 2011, U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.9 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, valued at $5.3 billion, an increase over 2010 of 1.6 billion pounds and more than $769 million. Much of the increase is due to higher catches of Gulf menhaden, Alaska pollock, and Pacific hake, also known as whiting.

“Commercial and recreational fishing are integral to the nation’s social and economic fabric,” said Sam Rauch, deputy assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “To see landings and value climb again this year shows we’re moving in the right direction and that the fishing industry is strengthening as fish populations rebuild. Our goal is to support a thriving, sustainable seafood industry that is competitive in the global marketplace, and to enjoy the benefits of recreational fishing in our own waters.”

More than 10 million recreational saltwater anglers in the United States took 69 million marine fishing trips in 2011 and caught 345 million fish, releasing nearly 60 percent of them alive. Spotted sea trout remained the top catch for recreational anglers, with 41 million caught in 2011. Atlantic croaker, sand sea trout, spot, and kingfishes were the other most common catches for saltwater anglers last year.

Today’s report shows that the Alaska port of Dutch Harbor-Unalaska led the nation with the highest amount of fish landed – primarily pollock – for the 15th consecutive year. For the 12th consecutive year, New Bedford, Mass. had the highest valued catch, due mostly to the sea scallop fishery. However, scallops are a bright spot in New England fishery: despite fishermen staying within catch limits, several key groundfish stocks have declined unexpectedly, leading the Department of Commerce to declare a disaster for groundfish fishermen on Sept. 13. Similar announcements were made that day for chinook salmon in Alaska’s Yukon and Kuskokwin rivers and Cook Inlet, and for the oyster and blue crab fisheries in Mississippi.

Catches throughout the Gulf of Mexico rebounded in 2011 to the highest volume since 1999, following a curtailed 2010 season due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The full fishing season in 2011 produced commercial landings of Gulf menhaden that were 42 percent higher than 2010 landings, with Gulf fishermen bringing in more than 1.4 billion pounds of menhaden valued at $104 million. Gulf shrimp landings rose 20 percent, from 176 million pounds valued at $338 million in 2010 to 212 million pounds valued at $418 million in 2011.

The report also shows that the average American ate 15 pounds of fish and shellfish in 2011, less than the 2010 figure of 15.8 pounds. Altogether, Americans consumed 4.7 billion pounds of seafood, making the U.S. second only to China in seafood consumption.

Gulf of Mexico menhaden.

Gulf of Mexico menhaden. (Credit: NOAA)

In 2011, about 91 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. was imported, up five percent from 2010. However, a portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing and then re-imported to the U.S. The top three imports are shrimp, canned tuna, and tilapia fillet.

Almost half of imported seafood comes from aquaculture, or farmed seafood. America’s aquaculture industry currently meets less than five percent of U.S. seafood demand, producing primarily oysters, clams, mussels, and some finfish, including salmon.

“By promoting sustainable domestic aquaculture to complement rebuilt wild fisheries, we can create more jobs and provide additional local sources of seafood that meet the highest standards for environmental protection and food safety,” said Rauch.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Watch video LIVE from the seafloor as NOAA and partners explore deep-sea volcanoes

September 17, 2012

West Mata volcano.

In the sonar image from the 2009 expedition, the summit of the West Mata volcano (shown in red) is nearly a mile below the ocean surface (1,165 meters/3,882 feet), and the base (in blue), descends to nearly two miles (3,000 m/9,842 ft) deep. The eruptive activity occurred at several places along the summit, in an area about the length of a football field. The volcano has a 6-mile-long (9.6 kilometer-long) rift zone running along its spine in a southwest-northeast orientation.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

With just a computer or a mobile device, you can virtually join a NOAA-led team of 35 international scientists as they explore seafloor volcanoes. Watch live video from the deep sea and hear shipboard scientists describe their discoveries as they explore submarine volcanoes in the Western Pacific’s Lau Basin, centered between Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.

A robot vehicle on the deep seafloor is sending to the research vessel and the worldwide web, live streaming video of lava landscapes and their exotic ecosystems. Join the expedition live online each day, weather permitting, now through September 25, between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time online.

The science team, led by Chief Scientist Joseph Resing, Ph.D., of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, is sampling and imaging deep-sea ecosystems in an area of the ocean where an explosively erupting submarine volcano was observed in 2009 at a depth of 4,000 feet. Co-chief scientist on the 2012 expedition, Robert Embley, Ph.D., of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, said in 2009 that the explosions “looked like the 4th of July, underwater.” Video from the 2009 expedition is available online.

Map of study area.

The West Mata volcano is not the largest volcano in the northeast Lau Basin, but in 2009, it appeared to be the most active. Scientists on the 2012 mission will again visit West Mata. This bathymetric (water depth) map represents the area visited and mapped on previous expeditions to the area. The Tonga Trench to the north and east of the expedition area is nearly seven miles (11.2 km) deep. 

High resolution (Credit: Map courtesy of NOAA)

“The Lau Basin is one of Earth’s most geologically active areas, with ocean plates colliding and separating at some of the highest rates on the planet,” said Resing. “Our preliminary surveys between 2008 and 2011 revealed the Northeast Lau Basin as one of the most concentrated areas of active submarine volcanism and hot springs found anywhere on Earth.”

Scientists from the United States, New Zealand, and Australia are working closely with a team led by Volker Ratmeyer, Ph.D., from the MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen (Federal Republic of Germany), using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Quest 4000 to explore and characterize the unique ecosystems of the Northeast Lau basin. During the first hour of each dive, the ROV dives to the seafloor and the final hour of each dive has the ROV rising to the ship. The ROV operates to a depth of 4,000 meters and can map volcanic geology, sample chemical fluids, and collect macro- and micro- biological samples. Scientists are deploying the ROV from the research vessel (R/V) Roger Revelle, operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Fire blast.

During the 2009 expedition, superheated molten lava, about 1,204ºC (2,200ºF) erupts, producing a bright flash as hot magma that is blown up into the water before settling back to the sea floor. Notice the front of the remotely operated vehicle (foreground, left).

High resolution (Credit: Image courtesy of NSF and NOAA)

The cruise is a project of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. The National Science Foundation provided additional funding for ROV dives and for research conducted by Brad Tebo, Ph.D. Support has also been provided by Nautilus Minerals in Canada and by New Zealand’s Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.

Video highlights, daily mission logs, interactive maps, mission scientists’ biographies, background essays, 3D bathymetric virtual “fly-throughs” of the Lau Basin, and education materials are all available online. Visitors there can also participate in Office of Ocean Exploration and Research social media sites, and in the online inquiry “Ask an Explorer” program.

The mission began on September 9 from Suva, Fiji, and the mission, as well as live video feeds, will conclude upon entering the port of Apia, Samoa on September 25.

Other hydrothermal activity may be viewed online.

NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is the only federal program that systematically explores Earth’s largely unknown ocean for the purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

More Photos:

map.Lau Basin - East Mata - Sonar image of the East Mata volcano. Image is looking toward the north. According to Lau Basin studies in Nov. 2008 and May 2010, CTD casts indicated that East Mata is hydrothermally active, but probably not erupting.

Download here. (Credit: Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2012 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program)

octocoral.Fonualei South - Sonar image of the Fonualei South spreading center. Image looks toward the south.

Download here. (Credit:Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2012 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program )

Northern Northeast Lau.Northern Northeast Lau Spreading Center - Sonar image of the Northern Northeast Lau spreading center. Image looks toward the northeast.

Download here. (Credit: Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2012 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program)

Niua volcano.Niua - Sonar image of Niua volcano in foreground. Image looks toward the north/northeast.

Download here. (Credit: Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2012 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program)

North Mata group.>North Mata Group - Sonar image of the North Mata group of volcanoes. Image looks toward the northeast. Six of these seven seamounts were found to have hydrothermal activity during an expedition in 2010.

Download here. (Credit: Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2012 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program)

Volcano O.>Volcano O Sonar image of Volcano O, a huge 3.75-mile wide caldera (inside diameter) in the NE Lau basin. Image looks toward the north.

Download here. (Credit:Image courtesy of Submarine Ring of Fire 2012 Exploration, NOAA Vents Program mal activity during an expedition in 2010 )


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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Antarctic ozone hole second smallest in 20 years

October 24, 2012

Staff at the South Pole get ready to release a balloon.

Staff at the South Pole get ready to release a balloon that will carry an ozone instrument up to 20 miles in the atmosphere, measuring ozone levels all along the way. NOAA image from 2011.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA.)

Warmer air temperatures high above the Antarctic led to the second smallest seasonal ozone hole in 20 years, according to NOAA and NASA satellite measurements. This year, the average size of the ozone hole was 6.9 million square miles (17.9 million square kilometers). The ozone layer helps shield life on Earth from potentially harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can cause skin cancer and damage plants.

The Antarctic ozone hole forms in September and October, and this year, the hole reached its maximum size for the season on Sept. 22, stretching to 8.2 million square miles (21.2 million square kilometers), roughly the area of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined. In comparison, the largest ozone hole recorded to date was in 2000 at 11.5 million square miles (29.9 million square kilometers).

The Antarctic ozone hole began making a yearly appearance in the early 1980s, caused by chlorine released by manmade chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. The chlorine can rapidly break apart ozone molecules in certain conditions, and the temperature of the lower stratosphere plays an important role.

“It happened to be a bit warmer this year high in the atmosphere above Antarctica, and that meant we didn’t see quite as much ozone depletion as we saw last year, when it was colder,” said Jim Butler with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

Even 25 years after an international agreement was signed to regulate production of ozone-depleting chemicals, the ozone hole still forms each year. In fact, it could be another decade before scientists can detect early signs of Antarctic ozone layer recovery, according to a paper by NOAA researchers and colleagues published last year. The ozone layer above Antarctica likely will not return to its early 1980s state until about 2060, noted NASA atmospheric scientist Paul Newman.

Ozone levels at the South Pole continue to plummet every Antarctic spring.

Ozone levels at the South Pole continue to plummet every Antarctic spring, when a coincidence of environmental factors and manmade chemicals still in the atmosphere promote reactions that eat away at the protective ozone layer. This year (in yellow) ozone levels did not drop as low as they have in recent years. 

Download here. (Credit: NOAA.)

The length of time needed for this full recovery is due in part to the large quantity and long lifetime of ozone-depleting substances in the atmosphere. Climate change may also affect the rate of ozone recovery by cooling the stratosphere, which has several competing effects on ozone depletion.

Monitoring the ozone’s state remains important because the ozone layer acts as Earth’s natural shield from DNA-mutating UV radiation. Under the mandate of the Clean Air Act, NOAA and NASA scientists keep a close eye on the ozone layer’s health with satellite data, ground-based measurements and balloon-borne instruments.

A new ozone-monitoring instrument on Suomi-NPP weather satellite, the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS), will be key to that effort. OMPS will extend the satellite record of ozone hole extent, which dates back to the early 1970s, and will provide more detail about ozone levels at various layers in the atmosphere and around the globe.

“OMPS Limb instrument looks sideways, and it can measure ozone as a function of height,” says Pawan Bhartia, NASA atmospheric physicist and OMPS instrument lead.
“This OMPS instrument allows us to more closely see the vertical development of Antarctic ozone depletion in the lower stratosphere where the ozone hole occurs.”  

Balloon-borne and ground-based instruments provide ozone data when darkness prevents satellite observations. “The sun doesn’t rise above the South Pole horizon until about Sept. 22, by which time ozone depletion has already begun,” said NOAA atmospheric scientist Irina Petropavlovskikh.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NOAA, California partner to improve forecasts of powerful 'atmospheric river' winter storms

December 3, 2012

A storm darkens the sky.

A storm darkens the sky at the mouth of the Russian River, north of Bodega Bay, Calif. NOAA scientists and colleagues are installing the first of four permanent "atmospheric river observatories" in California this month, to better monitor and predict the impacts of powerful winter storms associated with atmospheric rivers.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA.)

NOAA scientists and colleagues are installing the first of four long-term “atmospheric river observatories” in coastal California this month to better monitor and predict the impacts of landfalling atmospheric rivers. These powerful winter systems, sometimes called “pineapple express” storms, can be beneficial, in that they help to fill the state’s reservoirs, but they can also cause destructive floods and debris flows.

The coastal observatories, which are arrays of custom instruments, are being installed in collaboration with the California Department of Water Resources and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego. The observatories will give weather forecasters, emergency managers and water resource experts detailed information about incoming storms such as winds and water content.

“California needs to know how and where it might rain or snow, when and where to expect flooding,” said Michael Anderson, Ph.D., state climatologist with the California Department of Water Resources. “The observatories will also help state officials and scientists monitor changes in atmospheric rivers associated with climate change.”

Flooded homes along the Russian River in California.

Flooded homes along the Russian River in California. NOAA scientists and colleagues are installing the first of four permanent "atmospheric river observatories" in California this month, to better monitor and predict the impacts of powerful winter storms associated with atmospheric rivers.

Download here. (Credit: FEMA)

This month’s installation of an atmospheric river observatory in Bodega Bay, Calif., will be followed by installations at Eureka, Point Sur and Goleta. The move to set up the four observatories and other weather instruments throughout the state came after NOAA researchers and academic scientists spent several winters testing and selecting the most effective arrays of instruments for collecting useful information for decision makers. Installation of all four observatories is expected to be completed by early 2014.

“With satellites, we can see the tell-tale water vapor signature of an incoming atmospheric river over the ocean. However, NOAA’s offshore observing systems do not measure another key factor — strong low-altitude winds,” said Martin Ralph, Ph.D., a research meteorologist and branch chief in NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “With our new sensors, we’ll be able to measure those winds and more, to understand just how much moisture is moving in, which largely controls how extreme the precipitation inland will become. This information will ensure that meteorologists and emergency managers have additional information to keep the public informed about these potentially destructive storms.”

The four coastal observatories will include:

A Doppler wind profiling radar, which reveals the speed and direction of winds at several altitudes aloft; A technique for extracting critical information from wind profiler data — the level in the atmosphere where falling snow turns to rain;Global positioning system (GPS) water vapor instruments, which measure the total amount of water vapor above the site; andStandard meteorological instruments (relative humidity, temperature, pressure, rain gauge).Pine Lake, East side of Sierra Crest, northwest of Bishop, Calif.

Pine Lake, East side of Sierra Crest, northwest of Bishop, Calif. New arrays of custom weather instruments, designed by NOAA scientists and colleagues and under deployment now, should help California officials better anticipate whether incoming storms will bring snow to the high country, or heavy rain and dangerous floods.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA)

Combined, these data allow forecasters to monitor the transport of moisture into the state, which is critical in determining precipitation amounts and locations as well as the altitudes in the mountains that will receive rain as opposed to snow.

These observatories will become part of the statewide observing network designed by NOAA scientists and colleagues to give forecasters and water managers the information they need to help to mitigate the impacts of strong atmospheric rivers, such as extreme precipitation and flooding. For example, snow-level radars designed, built and tested by NOAA scientists, are now deployed in 10 major watersheds across the state. Also, a network of soil moisture sensors is being installed at 43 sites across the state, including several in the flood-prone Russian River watershed.

“These soil moisture sensors are key to anticipating whether an incoming storm will produce heavy runoff or if much of the rain will be absorbed in the soil,” said Michael Dettinger, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a research associate with Scripps.

“This new and innovative network, transitioning research into operations, is helping California move into the future, better observing and planning for floods and water resource issues of today and tomorrow,” Anderson said.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

The California Department of Water Resources operates and maintains the State Water Project, provides dam safety and flood control and inspection services, assists local water districts in water management and water conservation planning, and plans for future statewide water needs.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Monday, November 18, 2013

Historic Shipwreck Discovered at the Channel Islands

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 23, 2012

Contact:
Shauna Bingham 805-729-3275
Robert Schwemmer 805-884-1466
Historic Shipwreck Identified
at Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

photo of the billingsFive-masted lumber schooner George E. Billings shortly after launching flying the Hall Bros. house flag from the mast. The Hall Bros. built the 224-foot wooden vessel at Port Blakely, Washington for their own account in 1903. (Photo courtesy of San Francisco Maritime Historic Park: f1.12028)Seventy years after it was scuttled off Los Angeles, Calif., government archaeologists have found the wrecked remains of a rare Pacific Coast schooner that was employed in the lumber trade during the early 1900s.

Today, Robert Schwemmer, maritime archaeologist for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, presented a scientific paper on the George E. Billings history and its discovery in February 2011 at the eighth California Islands Symposium in Ventura, Calif.

The Billings, a five-masted schooner built in 1903 by Halls Bros. of Port Blakeley, Wash., hauled lumber from the Northwest to Hawaii, Mexico, South America, Australia and southern California. After decades servicing the lumber trade it was converted into a sport-fishing barge. In 1941, the owner decided to scuttle the aging vessel off the coast of Santa Barbara Island.

Since the early 1990s, archaeologists and historians with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park have searched for the Billings. The wreck was located using research provided by tech-diver Steve Lawson, researcher Gary Fabian, and Patrick Smith with Coastal Maritime Archaeology Resources.

photo of the billings and a diverCMAR diver Patrick Smith examines one of two massive mooring bitts discovered at the George E. Billings site. Mooring lines were secured from the mooring bitts to similar bitts on wharfs and docks called bollards. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer Sanctuaries/NOAA)

"The discovery of the Billings is a result of excellent collaboration with the local community," Schwemmer said. "Now we can write the final chapter of not only the largest, but the last sailing vessel built by the Hall Bros. during their 30-year career of designing some of the finest ships sailing the Pacific."

More than 150 historic ship and aircraft have been reported lost in sanctuary and park waters, with 30 having been located and surveyed. The wreck sites are protected under state and federal law, and it is illegal to disturb or damage any archaeological sites in sanctuary and park boundaries. The Billings shipwreck remains are owned by the State of California and managed by the California State Lands Commission.

"Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park are a world destination for sport diving," said Chris Mobley, sanctuary superintendent. "For years, divers have shared new discoveries with both federal agencies and we commend them for their spirit of stewardship so these historic resources can be surveyed and shared with the American public."

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebooklink leaves government site, Twitterlink leaves government site and our other social media channels.

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1980 to protect marine resources surrounding San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands. The sanctuary spans approximately 1,470 square miles, extending from island shorelines to six miles offshore, and encompasses a rich diversity of marine life, habitats and historical and cultural resources. On the Web:
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Maritime Heritage Program
NOAA National Maritime Heritage Program
Channel Islands National Park
California State Lands Commission
Eighth California Islands Symposiumlink leaves government site Photo Gallery:



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Sunday, November 17, 2013

NOAA announces $4.5 million in environmental literacy grants to support K-12 science education and stewardship projects

September 19, 2012

NOAA announced today the results of its recent competitions for education grants to enhance science education activities in classrooms, aquariums, museums and other institutions across America. A total of $4.5 million in grants from the NOAA Office of Education’s Environmental Literacy Grants Program will be awarded to support six unique, multi-year projects.

Projects are designed to increase stewardship and informed decision-making within a diverse pool of educators, students and the public to help promote environmental literacy. The selected projects will partner with NOAA’s research laboratories, national marine sanctuaries, Climate Program Office, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Weather Service, Pacific Services Center, Coral Reef Conservation Program and Sea Grant.

“NOAA’s Office of Education is proud to partner with such an impressive group of organizations,” said Louisa Koch, director of education at NOAA. “It is only with the help of institutions such as these that we can successfully engage the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics while supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship’.”

These multi-year projects will focus on engaging formal and informal educators along with K-12 students. Project activities include formal K-12 educator training programs to help teachers incorporate NOAA data and other resources into experiential learning activities; service learning programs for K-12 students that combine standards-based learning with stewardship activities in students’ local communities; and professional development to enhance informal science educators’ effectiveness in increasing public understanding of complex ocean topics. 

Recipients include:

Angelo State University (San Angelo, Texas): “Earth system science for elementary teachers” — $403,436 Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, Ill.): “Great Lakes revealed: Piloting professional development for high-need educators using NOAA’s Science on a Sphere and an inquiry- and problems-based approach to learning climate and Earth science” — $446,580 Earth Force, Inc. (Denver, Colo.): Global Rivers Environmental Education Network: Great Lakes science and service learning initiative — $677,192 Queens College (Flushing, N.Y.): “Into the Woods: Using student research in the urban environment to enhance elementary school environmental literacy” — $1,355,463 Nature Bridge (San Francisco, Calif.): “Environmental literacy for all: Creating comprehensive environmental service learning and professional development for diverse K-12 students and teachers” — $682,742 Florida Aquarium (Tampa, Fla.), Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, Calif.) and Alaska SeaLife Center (Seward, Alaska): “Building Ocean Awareness Together: Interpreting challenging ocean issues” — $898,490

The eight grants will be two to four years in duration and range in value from approximately $232,000 to $1,355,000. Awards were selected through peer-reviewed processes from a total of 104 applications received. NOAA’s program offices and research laboratories work closely with applicants to ensure projects incorporate the agency’s unique assets and current oceanic and atmospheric research in order to increase the awareness and utilization of NOAA’s work in education projects.

Congress established NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Grants Program in 2005. NOAA is planning to release a new funding opportunity in late winter 2013. A comprehensive list of awards and more information on NOAA’s Office of Education funding opportunities is available online.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.


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Saturday, November 16, 2013

NOAA, partners to document Civil War-era warship sunk in Gulf of Mexico battle

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sep. 10, 2012

Contact:
Shelley Du Puy, 409-621-5151 x106
NOAA, Partners to Document Civil War-era Warship
Sunk in Gulf of Mexico Battle

A team of archaeologists and technicians assembled by NOAA will begin today to create a three-dimensional sonar map to document the storm-exposed remains of the USS Hatteras, the only Union warship sunk in combat in the Gulf of Mexico during the Civil War.

The Hatteras, an iron-hulled steamship the U.S. Navy converted into a gunboat, was lost in a battle with the famous Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama on Jan. 11, 1863, about 20 miles off Galveston, Texas. Largely forgotten, the battle was one of the skirmishes that saw the key southern port of Galveston change hands twice and remain one of the last bastions of the Confederacy.

Today, the wreck of the Hatteras is largely intact, resting 57 feet underwater in sand and silt. Recent hurricanes and storms have removed some of the sediment and sand that once encased the vessel like a time capsule. Shifting sands may once again rebury the Hatteras, and so within a short window of opportunity, the team is assembling to capture all the data it can. Working from a NOAA research vessel and two private craft, the divers plan to deploy high-resolution mapping sonar to create 3-D photomosaics of the Hatteras for research, education, and outreach purposes during the two-day mission.

This 19th Century print depicts the sinking of USS Hatteras by CSS Alabama, off Galveston, Texas, January 11, 1863.This 19th Century print depicts the sinking of USS Hatteras by CSS Alabama, off Galveston, Texas, January 11, 1863. (Credit: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

"With support from the private sector and volunteers, and cooperation with federal and state agencies, this project intends to capture a detailed sonar map of the wreck," said James Delgado, director of maritime heritage for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. "This will create a detailed visual representation of a long buried wreck in murky waters that we can share with the public while also using it to plan for USS Hatteras' long term protection as an archaeological site and war grave."

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Hatteras represents an integral part of the story of the Civil War on the Texas coast. In 1863, the Hatteras was part of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron commanded by Union Rear Admiral David Farragut. The squadron was part of the U.S. Navy's efforts to block the passage of goods, supplies, and arms to and from the Confederacy on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The USS Hatteras is located in federal waters administered by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), but the ship itself is administered by the Navy. The vessel is protected by the Sunken Military Craft Act as a war grave-two of Hatteras crew went down with the ship, and their bodies never were recovered. They are presumed to lie inside the buried hull.

BOEM, working with private cultural resource management firms and the state of Texas, has documented sections of the vessel that protrude above the seafloor. Previously acquired data illustrates the changing nature of the wreck site, and the current level of site exposure presents an exciting opportunity to document the site. "This project will provide an unparalleled view of the wreck site," said NOAA's Delgado, "giving the public a unique 3-D look at the wreck from the safety of a computer screen, while also allowing us to document previously unexplored elements of the wreck."

Funding and support for the underwater archaeology project is being provided by the Edward E. and Marie L. Matthews Foundation, the OceanGate Foundation, and Teledyne BlueView. Participants include NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, BOEM, BSEE, the Texas Historical Commission, the U.S. Navy's History and Heritage Command, Tesla Offshore LLC, and private citizens including noted Houston underwater photographer and journalist Jesse Cancelmo, whose reports of the sand moving off the wreck prompted the project. NOAA, which manages Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the Galveston coast, is providing vessel support.

NOAA plans to present results from the mapping mission in Galveston next January during local events marking the 150th anniversary of the sinking of the Hatteras.

NOAA's mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebooklink leaves government site, Twitterlink leaves government site and our other social media channels.



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Friday, November 15, 2013

NOAA, National Archives team up with citizen-scientists to reconstruct historical climate of the Arctic

October 24, 2012

A page from the log book of the US Navy steamer Bear, June 22, 1884. A page from the log book of the US Navy steamer Bear, June 22, 1884. The Bear's logs are included in the Old Weather-Arctic citizen science project.

High resolution (Credit: National Archives.)

Before there were satellites or weather data transmitters or computer databases, there were Arctic sea voyages and sailors dutifully recording weather observations in ship logs. Now a new crowdsourcing effort could soon make a wealth of weather data from these ship logs available to climate scientists worldwide.


NOAA, National Archives and Records Administration, Zooniverse — a citizen science web portal — and other partners are seeking volunteers to transcribe a newly digitized set of ship logs dating to 1850. The ship logs, preserved by NARA, are from U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Revenue Cutter voyages in the Arctic between 1850 and the World War II era.

“We hope to unlock millions of weather, sea ice and other environmental observations which are recorded in these documents,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “These observations represent one of the largest and most underutilized collections of meteorological and marine environmental data in existence. Once converted into digital formats, new analyses of these data will help provide new insights.”

Organizers hope to enlist thousands of volunteers to transcribe scanned copies of logbook pages via the Old Weather project – www.oldweather.org. The principal aim of the project is to improve understanding of global climate, but the information recorded in these logbooks will also appeal to a wide array of scientists from other fields – historians of many specialties, genealogists, as well as current members and veterans of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

“We are delighted to be working with NOAA and Zooniverse so that our historical records can enable scientific discovery in the 21st century,” said David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. “While the data extracted from these records will be useful to scientists, these documents are also a treasure-trove of information for historians, genealogists, and others interested in the experiences and accomplishments of seafaring people.”

The Old Weather collaboration will provide free online access to primary documents, new data resources, and analysis tools. Old Weather is one of a suite of projects produced, maintained and developed by the Citizen Science Alliance and accessible online through Zooniverse. Citizen Science Alliance member institutions work with academic and other partners around the world to produce projects that use the efforts and ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers deal with the flood of data that confronts them, explained Philip Brohan, UK Met Office climate scientist and leader of the Old Weather project.

The National Archives will host digital images from all the logbooks in this collaboration on its website. This three-way collaboration not only makes the logbooks available to Old Weather citizen scientists and NOAA researchers, but also to anyone with Internet access who wishes to explore the diplomatic, scientific, technological and military aspects of the voyages, as well as accounts of dramatic rescues and tragic losses. “The logbooks not only capture operations of U.S. government ships,” said Ferriero, “They are an important cornerstone to researching U.S. and global history of any type."

The USS Jeannette's logs are part of the Old Weather-Arctic project.The USS Jeannette's logs are part of the Old Weather-Arctic project. The ship was entrapped in Arctic sea ice for many months. Only a few sailors and the logbook survived this doomed 1879 Arctic expedition.

High resolution (Credit: U.S. Navy public domain image.)

The Old Weather project began in 2010. Since then, 16,400 volunteers have transcribed 1.6 million weather observations from British Royal Navy logbooks – work that would have taken one person many years to complete. Now, Old Weather is taking on the National Archives’ extensive collection of logbooks, with an initial focus on ships that operated in the Arctic. Old Weather-Arctic will start off with roughly 100,000 logbook pages that include an estimated one million new-to-science observations.

Participants in Old Weather-Arctic will be able to work with the logbooks of the doomed 1879 USS Jeannette Arctic expedition, the Revenue Cutter Thomas Corwin that carried the famous naturalist John Muir to the far North in 1881, and the Coast Guard cutter Bear that sailed the coasts of Alaska for nearly 50 years. Many other ships, whose logs will be added in coming months, engaged in a variety of both unusual and useful work-a-day tasks in the Arctic.

For years, scientists at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle have been studying the Arctic climate and working to establish historical Arctic climate baseline data. However, much of the older data exist only in hand-written documents inaccessible to most scientists. Last year, researchers at PMEL and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, a partnership between NOAA and the University of Washington, approached the National Archives about digitizing its unique collection ship logbooks.

With funding from the North Pacific Research Board and the National Science Foundation, Old Weather-Arctic began taking shape. For several months, a small team of specially trained student interns worked with Archives’ staff to photograph the old ship logbooks, page-by-page, at a dedicated NOAA imaging station at National Archives facilities in Washington, D.C. and College Park, Md. Zooniverse has uploaded the ship log images to the Old Weather website, where volunteers can now transcribe the weather observations and any other interesting reports they might find.

Project scientists will integrate the transcribed data produced by Old Weather volunteers into existing large-scale data sets, such as the International Comprehensive Ocean Atmosphere Data Set, which are used by researchers around the world.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at www.noaa.gov and join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of our nation, government, and the American people. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and presidential Libraries, and online.


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