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Blog Category: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Spotlight on Commerce: Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

Karen Hyun, Senior Policy Adviser

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

At the Commerce Department, I have the privilege to serve as Secretary Bryson's senior policy adviser on energy and environment issues.  

My parents emigrated from Korea over forty years ago with a couple of suitcases and an incredible work ethic.  They eventually landed in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, halfway between my dad's small business fixing electric motors and the Veterans' Administration medical center where my mom was a doctor.  My sisters and I were products of our parents' focus on education, independence, public service, and proximity to a good public school system.   

When I was in elementary school, my dad used to wait with me at the bus stop until the bus came to pick me up.  The only days when this did not happen were election days because my parents were already waiting in line at the polls.  Early on, they instilled in us the right and responsibility to vote.  Although it was years before I could vote, my curiosity on how democracy works was piqued at an early age.  

My parents probably wanted me to follow in their footsteps and be an engineer or a doctor, but I chose a major in Earth Systems at Stanford University.  Earth Systems is a major in environmental science and policy and I chose to focus on our ocean ecosystems.  This was my first foray into learning about public policy that led to a Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island and several years on the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

NOAA Predicts a Near-Normal 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Satellite image of Hurricane Irene, 2011

Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew underscores necessity to prepare every year

Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today from Miami at its Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, and home to the Hurricane Research Division.

For the entire six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms with top winds of 39 mph or higher, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane with top winds of 74 mph or higher, and of those, one to three will become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5. Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D. “But regardless of the outlook, it’s vital for anyone living or vacationing in hurricane-prone locations to be prepared. We have a stark reminder this year with the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.” Andrew, the Category 5 hurricane that devastated South Florida on August 24, 1992, was the first storm in a late-starting season that produced only six named storms.

Favoring storm development in 2012: the continuation of the overall conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in 1995, in addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main Development Region. Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.  Full NOAA press release

Crimes Against Marine Mammals Exhibit Opens at D.C.'s Crime Museum

Image of entangled seal

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act through an eye-opening exhibit that showcases different violations of the Act, how law enforcement agents investigate those violations, and how you can help protect marine mammals. Created by Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the Crime Museum in Washington, D.C., the exhibit opens today at the museum and runs through September 3, 2012.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act  was passed in 1972 and prohibits, with certain exceptions, the take of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S.  More at NOAA Fisheries release

Deputy Secretary Blank Advocates Public Service in Commencement Speech

Guest blog post by Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank

This morning, I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to graduate students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) commencement ceremony.

I was also deeply honored to receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the ceremony for my work as a public servant, including the leadership I provided in my previous job at Commerce, overseeing the nation’s premier statistical agencies, the Census Bureau (during the 2010 Census) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The commencement speech provided an opportunity to give advice to the graduate students and to encourage them to use their expertise and experience to find solutions to the pressing problems facing our world. UMBC is particularly well-known for its scientific training. Science, technology, engineering and math–STEM fields–are particularly important, and it is STEM-related research that will drive innovation in the years ahead. In fact, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than other jobs, indicating the need for more workers with these skills.

NOAA, BOEM: Historic, 19th Century Shipwreck Discovered in Northern Gulf of Mexico

While most of the ship's wood has long since disintegrated, copper that sheathed the hull beneath the waterline as a protection against marine-boring organisms remains, leaving a copper shell retaining the form of the ship.

During a recent Gulf of Mexico expedition, NOAA, BOEM and partners discovered an historic wooden-hulled vessel which is believed to have sunk as long as 200 years ago. Scientists on board the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer used underwater robots with lights and high definition cameras to view remnants of the ship laden with anchors, navigational instruments, glass bottles, ceramic plates, cannons, and boxes of muskets.

Equipped with telepresence technology, Okeanos Explorer reached audiences around the world who participated in the expedition through live streaming Internet video. As members of the public ashore watched live video from the ocean bottom, they became “citizen explorers,” sharing in the discovery with maritime archaeologists, scientists and resource managers from a variety of federal, academic and private organizations.

The NOAA-funded 56-day expedition that ended April 29 was exploring poorly known regions of the Gulf, mapping and imaging unknown or little-known features and habitats, developing and testing a method to measure the rate that gas rises from naturally-occurring seeps on the seafloor, and investigating potential shipwreck sites.  Full story

NOAA: April Global Temperatures are Fifth-Warmest

Most of the globe's land areas experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, resulting in the second-warmest April land temperature, behind 2007 (Credit: NOAA Visualization Lab)

La Niña ends; neutral conditions return over equatorial Pacific Ocean

According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature for April marked the fifth warmest April since record keeping began in 1880. April 2012 also marked the largest departure from the 20th century average temperature in more than a year.

La Niña, typically associated with cooler global temperatures, dissipated and transitioned to neutral conditions during April as sea surface temperatures continued to warm across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, neutral conditions are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere's summer.

April analysis

U.S. Temperatures for April Third-Warmest on Record

Map: April 2012 Statewide Ranks

Past 12 months and first third of the year were warmest nation has experienced

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that several warm periods across the contiguous U.S. during April brought the national average temperature to 55°F, 3.6°F above average, marking the third warmest April on record. These temperatures, when added with the first quarter and previous 11 months, calculate to the warmest year-to-date and 12-month periods since recordkeeping began in 1895.

January-April was the warmest such period on record for the contiguous United States, with an average temperature of 45.4°F, 5.4°F above the long-term average. Twenty-six states, all east of the Rockies, were record warm for the four-month period and an additional 17 states had temperatures for the period among their ten warmest.

On the heels of the warmest March for the U.S., warmer and drier than average temperatures continued for much of the nation with some states in the Ohio Valley having a small, but still above-average, dip in temperatures.  Full briefing

NOAA Near-Term Weather Forecasts Get Powerful Boost from New Computer Model

Rapid Refresh (or RAP, lower right) performed better than the older RUC model (lower left) in predicting severe weather conditions that occurred in the Midwest on June 21, 2011 (upper right).

Research yields new tool to achieve a Weather-Ready Nation

Starting today, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is using a sophisticated new weather forecast computer model to improve predictions of quickly developing severe weather events including thunderstorms, winter storms and aviation hazards such as clear air turbulence.

The Rapid Refresh now provides NOAA's most rapidly updated weather forecast, replacing an older model that served a similar function. The Rapid Refresh, developed by NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. and NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in Camp Springs, Md., updates every hour with a new forecast extending out 18 hours for North America. Such forecasts are especially important in aviation, where fast-developing weather conditions can affect safety and efficiency, but they are equally important for severe weather and energy-related forecasting. | Full release

Earth Day 2012: Commerce Saves Trees—and Money—by Cutting Down on Printing

Image of grass, ferns and a tree

Guest blog post by Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Rebecca Blank

Earth Day is here, and Commerce is seeing the positive results of its year-long campaign to “go green” and drive down costs in print. Just this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce’s largest bureau, announced it has removed over one-third of its desktop printers, bringing total savings from the Commerce print project to $4.7 million per year.

Commerce spends $25 million annually on print–which includes equipment, paper, toner, energy and services. Last year we took a look at where that money was going and found that:

  • Commerce printed 250 million pages on its networked printers.
  • Nearly all of those pages were printed single-sided, and a quarter were printed in color. 
  • We also had a high ratio of employees-to-desktop printers, which use more toner and are more expensive than shared printers.  
  • And we realized we had 350 contracts and 400 vendors, with very little centralized ordering.

NOAA: National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Poster for National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

The first-ever National Severe Weather Preparedness Week begins Sunday, April 22, and Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have partnered to raise awareness and save lives.

Last year, storms raked the central and southern United States, spawning more than 300 tornadoes, claiming hundreds of lives and ranking as one of the largest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. As the nation marks the first anniversary of that historic outbreak, from April 22-28 we’re asking each person across the country to “Be a Force of Nature” by knowing the risk, taking action and being an example. Starting April 22, visit the NOAA homepage, National Weather Service Weather-Ready Nation website and the NOAA and NWS Facebook pages to get daily tips on how you can become a force of nature.

The severe weather of 2012 has already brought to light many forces of nature across the country. There was Stephanie Decker in Indiana, who, after receiving a timely text from her husband about an imminent tornado, took immediate action and gathered her children in the basement. Shielding them from collapsing debris, Stephanie tragically lost parts of both of her legs, but her children were unharmed. Lisa Rebstock in Texas saved the lives of her children by being prepared with a plan and a kit before the storm struck. Eighty-eight-year-old Wilma Nelson survived the deadliest tornado in Oklahoma history in 1947 and proved her force of nature status yet again. She said she owes her life to a NOAA Weather Radio that alerted her of the tornado that struck Woodward, Oklahoma, April 15.

NOAA Releases New Views of Earth’s Ocean Floor

A view of Delgada Canyon offshore Northern California, as portrayed in NOAA’s new online viewer.

NOAA has made sea floor maps and other data on the world’s coasts, continental shelves and deep ocean available for easy viewing online. Anyone with Internet access can now explore undersea features and obtain detailed depictions of the sea floor and coasts, including deep canyons, ripples, landslides and likely fish habitat.

The new online data viewer compiles sea floor data from the near shore to the deep blue, including the latest high-resolution bathymetric (sea bottom) data collected by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey primarily to support nautical charting.

“NOAA’s ocean bottom data are critical to so many mission requirements, including coastal safety and resiliency, navigation, healthy oceans and more. They are also just plain beautiful,” said Susan McLean, chief of NOAA’s Marine Geology and Geophysics Division in Boulder, Colo.

McLean’s division is part of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center, responsible for compiling, archiving and distributing Earth system data, including Earth observations from space, marine geology information and international natural hazard data and imagery. NGDC’s sea floor data have long been free and open to the public in original science formatting, but that often required the use of specialized software to convert the data into maps and other products.

In Time for Home Opener, NOAA’s National Weather Service Declares Coors Field StormReady®

Ominous Clouds Approaching Coors Field (credit: Rich Clarkson and Assoc)

Just in time for their home opener of the 2012 season, fans of Colorado Rockies baseball can feel safer when severe thunderstorms threaten Coors Field now that the park has earned designation as a National Weather Service StormReady® Supporter. Coors Field is the fourth major league baseball park to earn StormReady distinction.

To become StormReady, Rockies officials worked with local emergency management and NOAA’s National Weather Service to adopt a rigorous set of detection and warning criteria to provide protection from severe weather. Warning coordination meteorologist Robert Glancy will present a StormReady plaque and certificates to the Rockies at the April 13 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The nationwide community preparedness program uses a grassroots approach to help communities and organizations develop plans to handle local severe weather and flooding threats. The program is voluntary and provides clear-cut advice from a partnership between local National Weather Service forecast offices, state and local emergency managers and individual organizations. StormReady started in 1999 with seven communities in the Tulsa, Okla. area. There are now nearly 1,900 StormReady sites across the country. StormReady baseball fields include the Minnesota Twins' Target Field, the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ballpark, and the St. Louis Cardinals' Busch Stadium.

NOAA: U.S. Records Warmest March; More than 15,000 Warm Temperature Records Broken

U.S. map showing locations of record-breaking temps

First quarter of 2012 also warmest on record; early March tornado outbreak is year's first "billion dollar disaster"

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, record- and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895. Over 15,000 records were broken as March 2012 became the warmest on record.

The average temperature of 51.1 degrees F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 degrees F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months (or more than 116 years) that have passed since the U.S. climate record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.

This monthly analysis from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders.  Full release  |  NOAA visuaolization

The National Weather Service in the 1940s

Women hovering over weather maps

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today

The 1940s was a pivotal decade for the National Weather Service and the entire field of meteorology. Advancements in technology during the ‘40s, spurred by World War II, provided the scientific foundation for modern day weather forecasting throughout the world.

The agency, founded by Ulysses S. Grant in 1870 and called the Weather Bureau, was originally housed in the War Department. It was later moved to the Department of Agriculture in 1890, and then in 1940 President Roosevelt transferred it to the Department of Commerce. In 1970 the agency was renamed the National Weather Service when it became part of the newly-created National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce.

In the 1940s, most of the modern technology forecasters rely on today had not yet been invented, such as satellites and super computers. Weather observations were painstakingly logged by hand.

By 1940, the Weather Bureau operated 35 radiosonde stations (weather balloons), allowing for the routine measurement of atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind direction and speed. In 1942, the Weather Bureau received 25 surplus radars from the military, launching the network of weather surveillance radars.

Risk of Major Flooding in Spring is Low for the First Time in Four Years

U.S. Spring Flood Risk Map for 2012

Drought lingers in southern Plains and Southeast, expands in West and upper Midwest

For the first time in four years, no area of the country faces a high risk of major to record spring flooding, largely due to the limited winter snowfall, according to NOAA’s annual Spring Outlook, which forecasts the potential for flooding from April to June.

“We’re not forecasting a repeat of recent historic and prolonged flooding in the central and northern U.S., and that is a relief,” said Laura Furgione, deputy director, NOAA’s National Weather Service. “The severity of any flooding this year will be driven by rainfall more so than the melting of the current snowpack.”

The Ohio River basin including portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, along with parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are the only areas with an above-normal risk of flooding as soil moisture and river levels are currently above normal. Additionally, odds favor above-average April rainfall for the Ohio River basin.

River and stream water levels are normal to below normal for most of the country and there is less snow pack than in previous years. As a result, there is a normal flood risk from the Northeast, through the mid-Atlantic, across most of the northern Plains and into the Northwest. However, heavy spring rainfall can lead to flooding at any time, even in areas where overall risk is considered at or even below normal.  Drought outlook infographic  |  Full NOAA release

National Consumer Protection Week: Spotlight on Fighting Botnets

President Obama declared March 4-10, 2012 as National Consumer Protection Week, building on a coordinated effort that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. The Commerce Department is using this occasion to showcase the efforts of our Internet Policy Task Force, which is leveraging the expertise of several Commerce bureaus that are aimed at ensuring continued innovation in the Internet economy and preserving consumer trust in Internet commerce and online interactions. In particular, the Task Force continues to move forward in our work to promote new efforts that will lead to improved Internet privacy protection and better security for consumers online.

In September, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, released Request for Information (RFI) to focus on the growing concern around a specific Internet security risk related to "botnets."

While security risks on the Internet continue to exist in many areas, one increasingly exploited threat is the global rise of botnets. A botnet infection can lead to the monitoring of a consumer's personal information and communication, and exploitation of that consumer's computing power and Internet access. Researchers suggest an average of about 4 million new botnet infections occur every month.

NOAA Issues Severe Weather Outlook Three Days Ahead of Tragic Tornado Outbreak

NOAA Infographic of Severe Storm and Tornado Watches and Warnings, March 2, 2012

Each year, the United States experiences approximately 1,300 tornadoes. No state is invulnerable to the twisting, destructive winds that emanate from dark thunderstorms–and last week, Nature’s fury was focused on the central and southern states. 

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has in place a multifaceted tornado early warning system that includes general area outlooks days in advance and that gives individual cities and towns an average of 14 minutes warning before the potentially deadly tornadoes strike. Through a tremendous investment in research, observing systems and forecasting technology, NOAA’s National Weather Service issues more than 1,000 watches and nearly 30,000 warnings for severe storms and tornadoes each year. 

On February 29, 2012 that investment resulted in an outlook issued by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center a full three days ahead of the deadly outbreak. This outlook advised forecasters and the emergency management community that conditions would become favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. 

Advances in research and technology have increased the average warning lead time from only five minutes in the early 1990s to 14 minutes in 2010, thereby giving people and communities more time to seek shelter and reducing loss of life. But technology can only do so much; individuals also need to be prepared for disaster. Visit www.ready.gov to learn more. NOAA Weather Radio webpage  The Weather Channel, "Tornado Outbreak: As It Happened"

National Consumer Protection Week: Spotlight on Privacy

Today, President Obama declared March 4-10, 2012 as National Consumer Protection Week, building on a coordinated effort that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions. The Commerce Department is using this occasion to showcase the efforts of our Internet Policy Task Force, which is leveraging the expertise of several Commerce bureaus that are aimed at ensuring continued innovation in the Internet economy and preserving consumer trust in Internet commerce and online interactions. In particular, the Task Force continues to move forward in our work to promote new efforts that will lead to improved Internet privacy protection and better security for consumers online.

 In February, the Obama administration unveiled a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” as part of a comprehensive blueprint to improve consumers’ privacy protections and ensure that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth. The president’s report called on the Commerce Department’s NTIA to begin convening companies, privacy advocates and other stakeholders to develop and implement enforceable privacy policies based on the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

NTIA is now moving forward and seeking public input on what issues should be addressed through the privacy multistakeholder process and how to structure these discussions so they are open, transparent, and most productive. Today, NTIA issued a formal request for comment (PDF). The comment period will remain open until March 26, 2012.

As NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling illustrated last week, we hope to receive meaningful suggestions and input from a range privacy stakeholders.  Their continued involvement will be key for the future of consumer protection and we need your help to make it a success.

The report, “Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy,” (PDF) resulted from a comprehensive review of Internet privacy policy and innovation in the Internet economy lead by the Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. James Turner, Director of the Office of International Affairs

Dr. James Turner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs and Director of NOAA Office of International Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

I am a native of Washington, DC and had the benefit of growing up in a home with loving parents who stressed family, integrity, achievement, service, and education.The values I learned at home were reinforced by those I was taught by the Jesuits at Gonzaga High School.  This strong foundation led me to receive degrees in Physics from MIT (Ph.D.) and Johns Hopkins (B.A.). 

Physics is simultaneously empowering and humbling.  It is empowering in the knowledge and understanding that helps others and humbling in that often the more we learn the more we realize we do not know.  When I was in school, it was disturbing that so few minorities and women were considering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) career fields.  So, after finishing at MIT, I applied for positions at universities in Africa and at Historically Black Colleges in the U.S.  My first two positions were on the Physics Faculties at Southern University (Baton Rouge) and Morehouse College.  I am very proud that, among the students I taught while at Morehouse, two are now NOAA scientists.

Science at Sea: Teaching Our Youth About the Jobs that Make it Happen

"If I Worked on a NOAA ship" book cover

As NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program (TAS) prepares for its 2012 season, the lessons and materials created by its participants from the 2011 season are making it into the hands of their eager students around the U.S. In 2011, 34 teachers representing 21 states, participated in NOAA research cruises, involving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts that can be integrated into their daily lessons. One of the goals of the TAS program is that teachers understand and use NOAA data in their classrooms. Teachers also obtain and translate this STEM knowledge for their students and the public in their blogs.

Another goal of the TAS program is for teachers to learn how different STEM occupations support NOAA’s mission and to then convey this information to their students. Each teacher is required to meet with, and sometimes interview, multiple crewmembers during the research cruise.  Often times, these interviews are featured in their blogs, but sometimes, teachers have the students create a product that explains the different jobs.

NOAA: 2011 A Year of Climate Extremes in the United States

Map of U.S. showing wettest, driest, coolest, warmest regions by colored dots

NOAA announces two additional severe weather events reached $1 billion damage threshold, raising 2011’s billion-dollar disaster count from 12 to 14 events

According to NOAA scientists, 2011 was a record-breaking year for climate extremes, as much of the United States faced historic levels of heat, precipitation, flooding and severe weather, while La Niña events at both ends of the year impacted weather patterns at home and around the world.

NOAA’s annual analysis of U.S. and global conditions, conducted by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, reports that the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 53.8 degrees F, 1.0 degree F above the 20th century average, making it the 23rd warmest year on record. Precipitation across the nation averaged near normal, masking record-breaking extremes in both drought and precipitation.

On a global scale, La Niña events helped keep the average global temperature below recent trends. As a result, 2011 tied with 1997 for the 11th warmest year on record. It was the second coolest year of the 21st century to date, and tied with the second warmest year of the 20th century.  See NOAA's full 20011 Review

Weather By the Numbers: 2011 Remembered as "Year of Severe Weather"

Satellite image of Hurricane Irene

2011 will be remembered as the year of extreme weather. From extreme drought, heat waves and floods to unprecedented tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms, a record 12 weather and climate disasters in 2011 each caused $1 billion or more in damages—and most regrettably, loss of human lives and property. NOAA's National Weather Service has redoubled its efforts to create a "Weather-Ready Nation," where vulnerable communities are better prepared for extreme weather and other natural disasters.  Video of Hurricane Irene approaching the U.S.  |  Severe Weather blog
 
Here are some fast facts for weather by the numbers in 2011:

  • 3 million-plus: the number of residents who lost power during an unseasonably early nor’easter storm that spanned West Virginia to Maine (Oct 29-31)
  • -31 degrees F: the record low temperature reported in Nowata, Oklahoma, on February 10, 2011, which is the coldest temperature on record for the state!
  • 343: the largest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded (April 25-28), which left a deadly path of destruction from Alabama to Virginia.
  • 199: the number of confirmed tornadoes across the Southeast on April 27, the most on record for any single day in the United States!
  • 1 million-plus: the number of acres burned across just Texas, during a record wildfire season for the Southern Plains states.
  • 3 billion: the potential cost (dollars) to rebuild Joplin, Mo., after it endured the single costliest tornado in U.S. history on May 22. It was the 7th deadliest tornado the U.S. has seen, with 158 lives lost.
  • -7.97: the value of the Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI) for Texas in September that indicated the most intense drought to affect the state in 117 year period of record.
  • 300 percent: three times the amount of average precipitation (mainly rainfall) in the Ohio Valley that caused historic flooding along the Mississippi river.
  • 19: the number of tropical storms in the Atlantic this year, the 3rd busiest season since record keeping began in 1851

Building a Weather-Ready Nation

Luchenco on-screen video conference

This week, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) kicked-off a national dialogue to improve our nation’s readiness for extreme weather. At the Weather-Ready Nation: A Vital Conversation workshop, held in Norman, Okla., participants assessed why the nation has become more vulnerable to severe weather and identified ways to improve the public’s awareness, preparedness and response to future extreme events.

More than 1,000 lives have been lost this year to extreme weather, including about 550 from tornadoes. And the economic losses are equally staggering—at least 12 separate weather disasters, each with $1 billion or more in economic losses.

These impacts moved NOAA’s National Weather Service to launch an initiative called Weather-Ready Nation. The goal is to improve America’s readiness for weather events and save more lives and livelihoods. The Norman event is the first in a series of Weather-Ready Nation activities to be held across the country.

A Year of Extreme Weather

Aerial view of Burlington, North Dakota inundated with flood waters from the Souris River on June 25, 2011

Guest blog post by Assistant Administrator for Weather Services and Director of the National Weather Service Dr. Jack Hayes

As the extreme weather year of 2011 comes to a close, I want to reflect back on this year’s events and look ahead at ways to reduce the devastating impacts of weather on our society.

Crippling snowstorms in the Northeast and Midwest, violent tornadoes in the South, massive river flooding in the Central U.S., Hurricane Irene in the mid-Atlantic, and the epic drought in the Southern Plains accompanied by heat waves and devastating wildfires in some areas have all combined to make this a record-breaking year.

This is the first year since NOAA began keeping records that 12 separate weather events each caused more than $1 billion in damage.   The real story is not the number of events, but the severity of the impacts. Total economic losses from these 12 events have reached nearly $52 billion, and there have been more than 1000 weather-related death this year.

Could some of these deaths have been prevented; could the economic losses be reduced?   I think so and that is why we have launched a new initiative to build a Weather-Ready Nation.  This effort is designed to improve America’s responsiveness to weather events with the ultimate goal of saving more lives and livelihoods.

NOAA Issues Annual Report Card Outlining Changing Conditions in the Arctic

NOAA Issues Annual Report Card Outlining Changing Conditions in the Arctic

The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced findings from the annual Arctic Report Card, a report prepared by an international team of scientists from 14 different countries. These scientists monitor the rapid changes in the Earth’s northern polar region say that the Arctic is entering a new state–one with warmer air and water temperatures, less summer sea ice and snow cover, and a changed ocean chemistry. This shift is also causing changes in the in the region’s life, both on land and in the sea, including less habitat for polar bears and walruses, but increased access to feeding areas for whales.   Release  |  Watch the Arctic Report Card 2011 video

Among the 2011 highlights are:

  • Atmosphere: In 2011, the average annual near-surface air temperatures over much of the Arctic Ocean were approximately 2.5° F (1.5° C) greater than the 1981-2010 baseline period;
  • Sea ice: Minimum Arctic sea ice area in September 2011 was the second-lowest recorded by satellite since 1979;
  • Ocean: Arctic Ocean temperature and salinity may be stabilizing after a period of warming and freshening. Acidification of sea water (“ocean acidification”) as a result of carbon dioxide absorption has also been documented in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas;
  • Land: Arctic tundra vegetation continues to increase and is associated with higher air temperatures over most of the Arctic land mass.

Spotlight on Commerce: Pete Garrison, Official In Charge, Bethel Alaska, National Weather Service

Pete Garrison, Official In Charge, Bethel  Alaska, National Weather Service

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Guest blog by Harold "Pete" Garrison, Official In Charge, National Weather Service, Bethel Alaska

As a NOAA employee, I am in charge of the weather service office in Bethel, Alaska, a hub for more than 50 communities and villages with about 25,000 native residents. It is located in the delta regions of the mighty Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers. The office has a number of responsibilities that include upper-air and aviation observations, climate data collection, and the dissemination of weather products.

I am Inupiat Eskimo with some Russian, from the early explorers, on my mother’s side. After my father died in the US Air Force, My mother, three younger siblings and I moved to Unalakleet. I attended BIA school in Unalakleet and then went to a Native boarding school in Sitka until my high school graduation in 1968. Afterwards, I went to college in Fairbanks, Sitka, and Anchorage; however, I did not complete a degree because I decided I wanted to stay with NWS long-term.

Commerce Veteran Hiring at 16-Year High

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Commerce is proud to announce that in the last year, veteran hiring reached a 16-year high, raising the total representation of veteran new hires to 12.5 percent.

Two years ago, on November 9, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13518: Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government. This Executive order charged all Cabinet-level departments with establishing a Veterans Employment Office, developing an operational plan, and providing mandatory annual training to hiring managers and senior human resources practitioners on veterans preferences and special appointing authorities for veterans.

In response to the President’s Executive Order, Commerce hired Sean Lenahan, former U.S. Coast Guard officer, as their Veterans Employment Program Manager to head the Veterans Employment Team and lead all Department-level veterans hiring initiatives. The Department’s Veterans Employment Team consists of members from the Census Bureau, the Patent and Trademark Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“Our Veterans Employment Team has worked tirelessly to enhance employment opportunities for veterans throughout the Department,” said Bill Fleming, Director of Human Resources, Department of Commerce.  Mr. Fleming, a U.S. Army veteran, is one of the many veterans that hold key senior leadership positions within the Department.  Michael Phelps, Director, Office of the Budget, and Barry Berkowitz, Director, Office of Acquisition Management, are both highly decorated, retired officers of the U.S. Air Force.

Nation’s Newest Environmental Satellite Successfully Launched

An arc of light illuminates the pre-dawn sky at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as a Delta II rocket launches with the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft payload.

NPP is vital for NOAA’s weather forecast mission

America’s newest polar-orbiting satellite roared into orbit this morning, setting the stage for enhanced weather data NOAA scientists will use to develop life-saving severe weather forecasts days in advance.

The NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force, Calif., at 2:48 a.m. PDT aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. At approximately 3:45 a.m. PDT, the spacecraft separated from the Delta II to the delight of NOAA and NASA officials.

NPP is a NASA Earth-observing satellite and features five new instruments that will collect more detailed information about Earth’s atmosphere, land and oceans.  NASA will use NPP as a research mission, while NOAA will use the data for short and long-term weather forecasting and environmental monitoring.

“This year has been one for the record books for severe weather,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The need for improved data from NPP and the next generation satellite system under development by NASA and NOAA has never been greater.  They will enhance our ability to alert the public with as much lead time as possible.”

In 2011, data from polar-orbiting satellites like NPP allowed emergency managers and communities to prepare for severe weather events . Five days before a destructive and deadly tornado outbreak in Alabama and parts of the Southeast in April, NOAA forecasters were able to see the early atmospheric signs of the storm system developing and issue timely warnings.  NOAA  full release

U.S. Dealt Another La Niña Winter but ‘Wild Card’ Could Trump It

Map of US showing expected temperature by region

Devastating drought in Southern Plains likely to continue

The Southern Plains should prepare for continued drier and warmer than average weather, while the Pacific Northwest is likely to be colder and wetter than average from December through February, according to the annual Winter Outlook released today by Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

For the second winter in a row, La Niña will influence weather patterns across the country, but as usual, it’s not the only climate factor at play. The ‘wild card’ is the lesser-known and less predictable Arctic Oscillation that could produce dramatic short-term swings in temperatures this winter. 

NOAA expects La Niña, which returned in August, to gradually strengthen and continue through the upcoming winter. It is associated with cooler than normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and influences weather throughout the world.  Full NOAA release  |  Climate Prediction Center Outlook | Temperature outlook  |  Precipitation outlook

$102 Million in Wetlands and Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $102 Million in Wetlands and Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana Photo Credit: Tracie Morris Schaefer

Earlier today, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced $102 million for three Louisiana projects in the Barataria and Terrebone basins, to restore deteriorated wetlands and barrier island habitats along the state’s coast. These awards are funded by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) program.  U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Director Garret Graves and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Project Director Bobby Guichet also participated in the announcement.

Great Lakes Dredge & Dock and Weeks Marine have been contracted to restore beach, dune and marsh on Pelican Island in Plaquemines Parish, and West Belle Pass barrier headland in Lafourche Parish, respectively. The state of Louisiana will receive the third award to rebuild marsh and construct an 11,000-foot long protective ridge in the Bayou Dupont area in Jefferson Parish. The three projects will employ local citizens and generate further economic benefits for local businesses and coastal communities.

At the event, Blank also outlined help the American Jobs Act would provide Louisiana – putting people to work and boosting businesses. The plan would provide a significant new tax cut for small businesses, make major reforms to unemployment insurance to help get more Americans back on the job, and it would put more money in the pockets of Americans by reducing payroll taxes paid by workers.

The Jobs Act would complement the coastal restoration work funded by the awards announced by Blank today.

NOAA: Globe Had Eighth-Warmest August on Record

Image of Earth from space

The globe had its eighth-warmest August since record keeping began in 1880, while June through August was the seventh warmest such period on record. The Arctic sea ice extent was the second-smallest for August on record at 28 percent below average.

Global Temperature Highlights: August

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for August 2011 was the eighth-warmest on record.
  • Warmer-than-average conditions occurred across most of North America and the northern half of South America, southern Greenland, eastern Russia, Mongolia, most of Europe, northern Africa to Southwest Asia and southern Australia. Cooler-than-average regions included western Russia, Alaska, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
  • The August global ocean surface temperature was 0.79 F (0.44 C) above the 20th century average of 61.4 F (16.4 C), making it the 12th-warmest August on record.
  • Australia’s August 2011 average maximum temperature was the fifth-warmest August in its 62-year period of record. The state of Tasmania had its all-time warmest August maximum and minimum temperatures on record. 

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center provides a monthly analysis of global climate data for government, community and business leaders to help make informed decisions.   NOAA release  |  Graphic

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration: All Yours for Five Cents a Day

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) logo

Science plays a pivotal role in our lives every day, stimulating the economy, creating new jobs and improving the health and security of Americans.

And at NOAA all things start — and end — with science. It is the foundation of our work and of the value the agency brings to the American people.

What kind of value are we talking about, in real terms?

For less than 5 cents a day per person, NOAA puts science to work for all Americans by providing essential services such as …

  • Severe weather forecasting, warnings and research;
  • Disaster preparedness, oil spill response and habitat restoration;
  • Seafood safety testing and satellite-aided search and rescue; and
  • Ensuring sustainable fisheries, healthy oceans and resilient coastal communities.

When you consider the portfolio of services, stewardship and information NOAA provides people — decision-makers, emergency managers, fishermen, businesses, state/tribal/local governments and the general public — 5 cents a day has never gone further.  

Hurricane Irene: NOAA’s Efforts Before, During and After

Hurricane Irene as it makes landfall in North Carolina on August 27, 2011

Hurricane season for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is much more than just naming hurricanes. Even before Irene became the first hurricane of the season, NOAA was tracking her. Things kicked into high gear when Irene formed as a hurricane and appeared headed for landfall.

BEFORE

On Tuesday, August 23rd, NOAA forecasters began tracking and forecasting the track of the recently declared Hurricane Irene as it entered the southeastern Bahamas. As it turned out, this track forecast was remarkably accurate. The 48-hour error for Irene was 20 percent better than the 5-year average, and during the time that watches and warning were in effect for the United States, the average 48-hour track error was half of what it would have been 15 years ago. NOAA has a video of the accuracy of the prediction. The accuracy of this forecast is due to the guidance from the forecast model, advances in satellite-based observations and supercomputers, as well as the regular surveillance missions of the NOAA Gulfstream-IV beginning on August 23rd, allowing NOAA forecasters to watch the development of the storm.

On Friday, August 26th, NOAA and the University of Oklahoma deployed  two state-of-the-art mobile radar instrumented vehicles in North Carolina to intercept Hurricane Irene. These vehicles were equipped with dual-polarization technology that provided more accurate estimates of precipitation type and amount. This was also the first hurricane for the National Science Foundation-funded Rapid X-Scan X-band dual polarized radar which is sensitive enough to detect cloud particles. By using these mobile radar instruments, NOAA was able to compare three different radars scanning for three different features of the storm, giving NOAA scientists valuable data about hurricanes and their rainfall characteristics.

On August 26th and 27th, NOAA provided people in the projected path of the Hurricane with an accurate picture of the impact the Hurricane. In order to battle what NOAA calls “hurricane amnesia,” they released warnings about the dangers of inland flooding so as to advise people not to discount the power of the storm. This is part of NOAA’s broader effort to create a ‘Weather-Ready Nation,’ a strategic plan organized by the National Weather Service to increase the public’s knowledge of different environmental and weather related phenomena.

DURING

Commerce's NOAA Launches National Initiative to Build "Weather-Ready" Nation

Commerce's NOAA Launches National Initiative to Build "Weather-Ready" Nation

As communities across the country become increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events, the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently launched a comprehensive initiative to build a “Weather-ready” nation to make America safer by saving more lives and protecting livelihoods during such events as tornado outbreaks, intense heat waves, flooding, active hurricane seasons, and solar storms that threaten electrical and communication systems.

NOAA also announced that 2011 tied the 2008 record for billion-dollar disasters in the United States so far experiencing nine separate disasters, each with an economic loss of $1 billion or more. The latest event to surpass the $1 billion price tag is this summer’s flooding along the Missouri and Souris rivers in the upper Midwest. This year’s losses have so far amounted to more than $35 billion. Release

NOAA’s Lubchenco: Putting Science to Work for Everyone

ABC correspondent and town hall moderator Clayton Sandell, Lubchenco and Jim Crocker, Trustee, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco kicked off a nine-day trip to Colorado, California and Alaska with a town hall discussion at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on Wednesday, Aug. 17. ABC Denver correspondent Clayton Sandell moderated the discussion.  Dr. Lubchenco, a Colorado native, focused the discussion on NOAA’s value to the nation and Colorado, especially at a time when extreme weather events are creating serious challenges for people and communities. Later in Aspen, she spoke at the 8th  Annual American Renewable Energy Day Conference.

At the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, she said:

Our scientists build and improve our understanding of how the world works and how it is changing.  But we do so much more than that.  But we do so much more than that. NOAA puts that science to work for everyone – each and every day.  NOAA scientists use science to create and share trusted information and solutions to some of the greatest challenges on this planet:  such as knowing when and where severe storms will strike, testing seafood for safety, tracking and understanding climate change, using satellite to guide search and rescue operation, responding to oil spills, and working to restore oceans to a healthy state. So, these may seem like a disparate collection of services and stewardship, but they center around oceans, coasts, climate and weather- and are all based on science.

and

Science plays a pivotal role in our lives every day.  All things NOAA start with science. For less than a nickel a day, per person per year, NOAA puts that science to work for every American providing essential services:

  • Like healthy oceans.
  • Like severe weather forecasting, warnings and research.
  • Like disaster preparedness, and oil spill response and habitat restoration.
  • Like seafood safety testing and satellite-aided search and rescue.
One of the best bargains in the country! Using science, we develop solutions for a sustainable future– a future with natural resources that our families, our grandchildren, and generations to come can enjoy and use, if we use them wisely first.

NHC'S Bill Read: A Hurricane by Any Other Name. . . .

Satellite photo of Hurricane Dora, July21,  2011

Guest blog by Bill Read, Director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center

One of the customs of my job as Director that has been most interesting is the practice of naming of tropical cyclones. For several hundred years, many hurricanes in the West Indies were named after the particular saint's day on which the hurricane occurred. Ivan R. Tannehill describes in his book, Hurricanes the major tropical storms of recorded history and mentions many hurricanes named after saints. For example, there was Hurricane "Santa Ana," which struck Puerto Rico with exceptional violence on July 26, 1825, and "San Felipe" (the first) and "San Felipe" (the second) which hit Puerto Rico on September 13 in both 1876 and 1928.

Prior to the current naming scheme, storms were identified mostly by the current position (latitude and longitude). Not all of us are geographically oriented, and experience shows that the use of short, distinctive given names in written as well as spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. In the pre-Internet, 24/7 news cycle era, these advantages were important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases and ships at sea.

While not officially adopted until after 1950, the use of common people names dates back to the last century. An early example of the use of a woman's name for a storm (a winter storm called “Maria”) was in the novel Storm, by George R. Stewart, published by Random House in 1941, also filmed by Walt Disney. During World War II, this informal naming practice became widespread in weather map discussions among forecasters, especially Air Force and Navy meteorologists who plotted the movements of storms over the wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

Women and STEM: My Perspective, and My Story

Image of female scientists

Guest blog post by Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator

Last week, as the administration and Congress agreed on a debt ceiling deal, those of us in the science world were reminded of another looming deficit: the lack of women with jobs – and education – in science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM).

According to the “Women in STEM” report issued by Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA), nearly half of U.S. jobs are filled by women, yet they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This is despite the fact that women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than women in other fields.

A country, especially one in the throes of tough economic times, needs all of the skilled brainpower it has to “win the future.”  Science and technological innovation have a key role to play in creating jobs, stimulating a robust economy and creating durable solutions to tough problems.  Women and people of color have more to offer than is currently being tapped.  Since the ESA report focuses on women, I’ll do the same here.

We at NOAA are doing our best to identify, hire, promote and engage talented people. I am surrounded by women in all stages of their careers who are pursuing their passions for science and science policy.

We have a history of distinguished women scientists working at NOAA and continue to actively seek new talent. In addition, women of distinction also fill the uppermost ranks of the NOAA leadership team.

What differentiates NOAA from other science-based institutions, and what attracts budding scientists and students to NOAA? One obvious answer is our mission to create and use cutting-edge science to provide services and stewardship—our weather, climate and ocean science enterprises.

Kids are especially intrigued and excited by weather and climate as “see and feel” phenomena that touch them daily. The same can be said for the ocean, which like space, is a largely unexplored frontier that offers the promise of adventure and discovery.

This is, in fact, what hooked me.

NOAA: Heat Wave Leads to Fourth-Warmest July on Record for the U.S.

Infographic of U.S. showing temperature differences

Persistent, scorching heat in the central and eastern regions of the United States shattered long-standing daily and monthly temperature records last month, making it the fourth warmest July on record nationally, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The heat exacerbated drought conditions, resulting in the largest “exceptional” drought footprint in the 12-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. “Exceptional” is the most severe category of drought on the drought monitor scale. Drought conditions at several locations in the South region are not as long lived, but are as dry, or drier, than the historic droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. July NCDC report.

The average U.S. temperature in July was 77.0 degrees F, which is 2.7 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Precipitation, averaged across the nation, was 2.46 inches. This was 0.32 inch below the long-term average, with large variability between regions. The monthly analysis is based on records dating back to 1895.  Read more of NOAA's release.

NOAA's Atlantic Hurricane Season Update Calls for Increase in Named Storms

Satellite photo of Emily as of 8-3-11

Forecasters have a higher confidence for an active season

The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its updated 2011 Atlantic hurricane season outlook today raising the number of expected named storms from its pre-season outlook issued in May. Forecasters also increased their confidence that 2011 will be an active Atlantic hurricane season. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, updates its Atlantic hurricane season outlook every August.

“The atmosphere and Atlantic Ocean are primed for high hurricane activity during August through October,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center.  “Storms through October will form more frequently and become more intense than we’ve seen so far this season.”

Key climate factors predicted in May continue to support an active season. These include: the tropical multi-decadal signal, which since 1995 has brought favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions, leading to more active seasons; exceptionally warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures (the third warmest on record); and the possible redevelopment of La Niña.  Reduced vertical wind shear and lower air pressure across the tropical Atlantic also favor an active season.

Based on these conditions and on climate model forecasts, the confidence for an above-normal season has increased from 65 percent in May to 85 percent. Also, the expected number of named storms has increased from 12-18 in May to 14-19, and the expected number of hurricanes has increased from 6-10 in May to 7-10. Read NOAA's full release

NOAA: Cultivating the Next Generation of STEM Workers, One Student at a Time

NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program students on Chesapeake Bay field study  (NOAA photo)

You’ve probably heard the term in the news of late. “STEM jobs” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are the new “It” jobs.

A report from Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration discussed recently in this blog had good news for present and future STEM workers. Among its key findings, the report notes that in the past 10 years:

  • Growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs;
  • STEM workers earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts; and
  • Job growth in these fields will continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs. 

As the report confirms, STEM workers are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America “win the future” with new ideas, new businesses and new industries.

Enter Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s mission—to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources—is central to many of today’s greatest challenges.  

Why? Climate change, extreme weather, declining biodiversity, and threatened natural resources all convey a common message: Now, more than ever, human health, prosperity and well-being depend upon the health and resilience of both natural and social ecosystems and resources.

That means we need skilled hands and inspired minds to help society prepare for and respond to weather-related events, to sustain healthy and productive ecosystems and to ensure resilient coastal communities and economies.

NOAA, U.S. Department of Energy and Private Partners Launch Project to Reduce Cost of Energy, Including Wind Energy

Wind turbines

There has not always been a need to know precisely how hard the wind blows 350 feet above Earth’s surface. Today, wind turbines occupy that zone of the atmosphere, generating electricity. So NOAA and several partners have launched a year-long effort to improve forecasts of the winds there, which ultimately will help to reach the nation’s renewable energy goals.

The Wind Forecast Improvement Project (WFIP) is a collaboration among NOAA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), two private wind energy companies and academic research institutions. The project began today as dozens of powerful, custom instruments designed to better profile and predict the weather and winds were powered up.

“The end goal is to lower the cost of electric power for the consumer and meet President Obama’s clean energy challenge,” said Alexander MacDonald, NOAA deputy assistant administrator for research and director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. “Our starting point is to improve the basic wind forecast for all users, including wind power and conventional energy companies, the aviation industry and the general public.”

Last fall, through a competitive process, the DOE chose AWS Truepower, LLC and WindLogics, Inc. to participate in WFIP. DOE funds WFIP with about $6 million, while NOAA contributes scientific experts and expertise in collecting atmospheric data and in making weather predictions. The project targets the Upper Midwest and Texas, which were selected in part because WFIP industry partners support thousands of wind turbines in the areas.  Read more  |  Video

2nd Quarter Performance Excellence Awards Ceremony

Early in his tenure, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued a challenge to the entire Commerce Department to improve service delivery to the American public and to develop measureable standards by which each of the bureaus could judge their customer service and internal performance.  It is this vision that launched the Commerce Performance Excellence program, putting the department at the cutting edge of the Administration’s efforts to increase the return on investment of government programs.  The program supports the education of staff, recognition of significant achievements and the sharing of winning strategies to help the department become more engaged in improving processes to deliver more effective and efficient services.

On May 25, 2011, Secretary Locke recognized three exemplary employee teams from the Census Bureau, NOAA, and the Economic Development Administration with Performance Excellence Awards.  For the second time in less than one year, Commerce employees were honored for successfully implementing streamlined processes to better the administration and delivery of service to the American people.

In this video, Secretary Locke, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and others discuss the program, the awards and why process improvement matters.

In addition to its efforts to identify and promote quality improvements by role model teams throughout Commerce, the Performance Excellence program also deploys a system of Balanced Scorecards, quarterly Performance Reviews, and team process improvements to all bureaus.  Employees can learn learn more about the Performance Excellence program and Award recipients as well as information on the Balanced Scorecard or how they can improve processes in their own office by visiting the Performance Excellence page on the Commerce Intranet.

NOAA Ship Fairweather Sets Sail to Map Areas of the Arctic

NOAA Fairweather

NOAA Ship Fairweather, a 231-foot survey vessel, departed Kodiak, Alaska, today on a mission to conduct hydrographic surveys in remote areas of the Arctic where depths have not been measured since before the U.S. bought Alaska in 1867.

Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will use the data to update nautical charts to help mariners safely navigate this  important but sparsely charted region, which is now seeing increased vessel traffic because of the significant loss of  Arctic sea ice.

Over the next two months, Fairweather will conduct hydrographic surveys covering 402 square nautical miles of navigationally significant waters in Kotzebue Sound, a regional distribution hub in northwestern Alaska in the Arctic Circle.

“The reduction in Arctic ice coverage is leading over time to a growth of vessel traffic in the Arctic, and this growth is driving an increase in maritime concerns,” explained NOAA Corps Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather. “Starting in 2010, we began surveying in critical Arctic areas where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. These areas are increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges and fishing vessels.”

Fairweather and her survey launches are equipped with state-of-the-art acoustic technology to measure ocean depths, collect 3-D imagery of the seafloor, and detect underwater hazards that could pose a danger to surface vessels. The ship itself will survey the deeper waters, while the launches work in shallow areas.

Spotlight on Commerce: John Gray, Director of NOAA's Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

John Gray, Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Guest blog by John Gray, Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs.

My father served in the U.S. military so as a child our family moved all over the world. I fondly remember my time in New Mexico, Texas, Washington state, and abroad in Panama and Japan. Even though I was a world traveler as a child, I found Texas to be home. I entered and graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas and graduate school in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. After college and graduate school I was recruited to work at the Congressional Research Service, a part of the Library of Congress that specifically responds to congressional inquiries.  I have held several jobs in Washington, in and out of government, but immediately before starting at NOAA I worked as the Public Outreach Director, Economics for AARP. Prior to that, I worked for almost 8 years at the Department of Commerce where I served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs among many other positions.

I feel very grateful to work in this administration to further the President’s goal of winning the future.  At NOAA we perform a variety of services that move the President’s agenda forward. In my role as Director of NOAA’s Office of Legislative Affairs, we help communicate that vision to the Hill every day, ensuring that members of both parties understand how NOAA’s daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring, fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce support America’s economic growth and affect more than one-third of the gross domestic product. I’m particularly proud of NOAA’s effort to establish a climate service, which will provide available information about long term weather for public and private sector audiences and will be a significant innovation in the service that government can provide its citizens. Our work to build sustainable fishing waters will ensure that coastal communities can remain viable.

Commerce’s Commitment to Eliminating Regulatory Burdens in Support of Growth, Competitiveness and National Security

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In January, President Obama issued an executive order outlining his plan to create a 21st century regulatory system that encourages job creation, economic growth and U.S. competitiveness. The idea was to make it simpler, smarter and more efficient, while still protecting the health and safety of the American people.  As a key part of that plan, he called upon government agencies to conduct a comprehensive review of the rules and regulations currently on the books and to remove those that are outdated, unnecessary or excessively burdensome.  

This review has led agencies, including the Department of Commerce, to identify initiatives that have the potential to eliminate tens of millions of hours in reporting burdens and billions of dollars in regulatory costs. Today, the results of each agency’s review is being made public and posted on Whitehouse.gov. 

Here at the Commerce Department, we focused our plan on those bureaus with the greatest regulatory activity: the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the International Trade Administration (ITA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

NOAA Hurricane Outlook Indicates an Above-Normal Season

Hurricanes Karl, Igor and Julia

Urges residents in hurricane-prone areas to be prepared

The Atlantic basin is expected to see an above-normal hurricane season this year, according to the seasonal outlook issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center – a division of the National Weather Service.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is predicting the following ranges this year:

  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
  • 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher)

Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Now is the time to get your plan together for what you and your family would do if disaster strikes. Visit ready.gov to learn more and if you’re a small business owner, visit www.ready.gov/business to ensure that your business is prepared for a disaster.

Hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline; strong winds and flooding rainfall often pose a threat across inland areas along with the risk for tornadoes.

Next week, May 22-28, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week. To help prepare residents of hurricane-prone areas, NOAA is unveiling a new set of video and audio public service announcements featuring NOAA hurricane experts and the FEMA administrator that are available in both English and Spanish. These are available at http://www.hurricanes.gov/prepareRelease 

Plato, Mo. Celebrates Recognition as the 2010 Census U.S. Center of Population

In the photo are (left to right) Dr. Robert Groves, Juliana Blackell & Bob Biram  - Village Chairman.

Townspeople, elected representatives, government officials and hundreds of students today celebrated the naming of Plato, Mo., as the 2010 Census U.S. center of population. Amid music, speeches, banners and cheers, village chairman Bob Biram welcomed the crowd, saying, “We’re proud of our village. As one of our students said, ‘we were in the middle of nowhere; now we are in the middle of everywhere.’"

At the event, U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves and Juliana Blackwell, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Geodetic Survey, revealed a survey disc, commemorating the national center of population as calculated by the Census Bureau and measured by the National Geodetic Survey.

Each decade after tabulating the decennial census, the Census Bureau calculates the mean center of population for the country, as well as for each state and county. The national center of population is determined as the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 308,745,538 residents counted in the 2010 Census were of identical weight.  Press release

NOAA: All Federal Waters of the Gulf Once Closed to Fishing Due to Spill Now Open

NOAA map: Tuesday, April 19, 2011: The last area in federal waters closed to fishing due to the oil spill reopens (

More than 1,000 square miles opened today

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today reopened to commercial and recreational fishing 1,041 square miles of Gulf waters immediately surrounding the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, just east of Louisiana. This is the twelfth and final reopening in federal waters since July 22, and opens all of the areas in Federal waters formerly closed to fishing due to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This reopening was announced after consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

“I am pleased to announce that all federal waters affected by the spill are now open to all fishing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “I thank fishermen and the public for their patience and FDA for its support and cooperation throughout this process while we worked diligently to ensure the integrity of Gulf seafood.”

NOAA sampled this area between November 11 and November 14, 2010, March 12 and March 16, 2011, and March 28 and April 1, 2011, for potentially affected finfish, including tuna, swordfish, and escolar.  Read more in NOAA press release

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

This blog post is about an older plan. The United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations at the end of FY 2013 is available here.

The current FY 2011 Continuing Resolution may expire without new budget authority. While it is not anticipated that there will be a lapse in appropriations, the Department must be prepared for a potential lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations.

Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations in the absence of appropriations (a "shutdown plan"). This plan will likely be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, as the situation develops, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant.

This plan complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce.

Files

Commerce Department to Deploy Economic Assessment Teams to Six Northeast Fishing Ports

The U.S. Commerce Department announced today that economic development assessment teams will deploy next month to conduct a two-day analysis of six Northeast fishing communities. The teams will visit Portland, Maine, Seabrook, N.H., New Bedford, Mass., Gloucester, Mass., Point Judith, R.I., and Montauk, N.Y. The assessment teams will conduct meetings with local leaders to help identify economic development challenges and opportunities facing local industries and communities. 

“The Department of Commerce is committed to supporting a vibrant and profitable fishing industry in the United States. The assessment teams will help communities identify and begin to address the economic difficulties they are facing,” Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “We know that by rebuilding stocks, we will improve economic conditions for fishermen and coastal communities, but we recognize that transition is difficult. We are committed to help identify proactive solutions during these challenging economic times.”

“Supporting fishermen and fishing communities with economic assessment and planning assistance is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the administration,” said Brian McGowan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “The Northeast economic development assessment teams will play an important role in providing technical expertise to local leaders as they develop strategies to increase economic and job opportunities.”

The goal of the visits is to provide customized technical assistance for fishing communities that experienced  reductions in groundfish fishing revenues in recent years.  The Economic Development Administration (EDA), in partnership with other federal agencies, will meet with local leaders to assess current and emerging economic issues. EDA, with the assistance of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), evaluated economic and fisheries industry data, including groundfish landing revenues and the percentage of groundfish landed at a port relative to the state totals, in order to select ports for the interagency assessments.

Secretary Gary Locke visited NOAA's Science Center to Highlight Education as a Key Pillar for Enhancing American Competitiveness

Secretary Locke Talks with a Student at NOAA's Science Center in Silver Spring, MD about His Research

Secretary Gary Locke visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Center in Silver Spring, MD today, to highlight the importance of education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in enhancing the United States’ global competitiveness.  He emphasized President Obama’s strategy of results-driven education investments, which will allow the U.S. to out-educate, out-innovate and out-build the rest of the world. 

Locke participated in the NOAA Education Partnership Program’s Annual Cooperative Science Center Directors meeting, where he heard a presentations by NOAA-sponsored undergraduate, Master’s and Ph.D. STEM students about their latest research and findings.  He also held a roundtable discussion with the NOAA Science Center Directors and some of the NOAA Cooperative Institute Directors to exchange ideas about how to bolster STEM education programs for undergraduate and graduate students across the country.  Graduates of these programs are the workforce of the future and will contribute to the recovery and growth of America’s economy. 

The NOAA Education Partnership Program supports five Cooperative Science Centers, housed in Minority Serving Institutions in Washington D.C., Maryland, New York, Florida, and North Carolina.  These Cooperative Science Centers have awarded over 800 Bachelors, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in the STEM fields in the last 10 years; over 600 of these graduates are from under-represented minorities.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary and Administrator for NOAA

Dr. Lubchenco Oversees Seafood Sampling After the Deepwater Horizon Spill

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Dr. Jane Lubchenco is the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

At NOAA, science underpins all that we do. One reason that I am so proud to serve as the under secretary for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator is the track record of excellent science at our agency, our focus on delivering essential services based on that science, and the Obama Administration’s commitment to making policy and management decisions informed by the best science available.  

When I first met with then President-elect Obama in mid-December 2008, we discussed ways that NOAA could provide America the best climate change science, restore her ocean’s vitality, provide the best possible weather forecasts and disaster warnings, and help our nation transition to more sustainable ways of living. After asking some very perceptive questions, his comment was simply, “Let’s do it!” Now, how refreshing is that?

As NOAA administrator, my responsibilities include promoting and enabling the science of oceans and the atmosphere; using science to provide services to save lives and property and enable the creation of jobs; and using science in our mission to be good stewards of oceans, coasts, the atmosphere and the planet.  

NOAA: U.S. Temperature and Precipitation Near-Normal in February

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February 2011 was near normal for both temperature and precipitation averaged across the contiguous United States, according to the latest NOAA State of the Climate Report issued today. The February average temperature was 34.0 F, which is 0.7 F below the long-term (1901–2000) average. Last month’s average precipitation was 1.81 inches, 0.21 inch below the same average. February marked the end of the meteorological winter (December–February), which featured below normal temperature and precipitation for the three-month period.

This monthly analysis is based on records dating back to 1895, prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.  |  Read more of today's report

NTIA Launches National Broadband Map

Image of interactive broadband map

Today Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched the first-ever public, searchable nationwide map of broadband access.  

The National Broadband Map is an unprecedented project created by NTIA, in collaboration with the FCC, and in partnership with each state, territory and the District of Columbia. The map was created at the direction of Congress, which recognized that economic opportunities are driven by access to 21st century infrastructure.

With funding from NTIA’s State Broadband Data & Development Program, state partners have gathered and worked to validate broadband data from thousands of providers across the country. Together, a dataset and website were developd that includes more than 25 million searchable records displaying where broadband Internet service is available, the technology used to provide the service, the maximum advertised speeds of the service, and the names of the broadband providers. Whether you are a consumer seeking more information on the broadband options available to you, a researcher or policymaker working to spur greater broadband deployment, a local official aiming to attract investment in your community, or an application developer with innovative ideas, the National Broadband Map can help.  And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for on the map itself, you can download the entire dataset.  NTIA press release  |  Broadband map

Commerce Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Visits Department Campuses in Boulder

Acting Deputy Blank shown on tour with mechanical equipment

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Boulder, Colorado this week to visit some of the department’s state-of-the-art facilities run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Her four-hour tour included stops at the nation’s time standard, NIST's F-1 Cesium Fountain Clock; the quantum devices group where NIST scientists study and make volt standards, photon detectors and quantum computing chips; the temperature, humidity and vibration controlled Precision Measurement Lab, under construction at NIST and due to be completed in the spring of 2012; and NTIA's radio, video and audio labs at the Public Safety Communications research facility.

At NOAA, Blank saw demonstrations of a unique visualization tool, Science on a Sphere; toured the Space Weather Prediction Center and the National Weather Service’s Forecast Research Center; viewed a demonstration of the wind profiler model; and visited the Global Monitoring Division and the Environmental Data Archive.

The cutting-edge work that takes place at the department impacts the daily lives of the American people – from the accurate timekeeping ability of the Atomic Clock to high-tech weather forecasting capabilities to the continuous improvement of communications devices used by first responders. The scientists and researchers at NIST, NTIA and NOAA are leaders in research and development and help to keep the United States at the forefront of innovation and global leadership.

NOAA: 2010 Tied for Warmest Year on Record

Graphic of temperature anomolies

According to scientists from Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880. This was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average. For the contiguous United States alone, the 2010 average annual temperature was above normal, resulting in the 23rd warmest year on record.

This preliminary analysis is prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.  Release  |  State of the Climate Annual Report

What the America COMPETES Act Means for the Department of Commerce

This week, President Obama signed the America COMPETES Act, signifying the importance of science, education and technology to America’s ability to innovate and remain competitive in the 21st century. The America COMPETES Act reauthorizes spending across the federal government on a variety of programs at agencies like the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and here at the Department of Commerce.

The act authorizes our National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to receive funding that would double its core science and technology budget by 2017, and elevates the position of the director of NIST to include the additional title of Under Secretary for Standards and Technology. It better equips our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct cutting-edge research and further innovation in oceanic and atmospheric technology development. And it establishes a new Regional Innovation Program to be administered by our Economic Development Administration that encourages and develops regional innovation strategies like clusters and science and research parks that help businesses grow and take advantage of regional strengths. Finally, the new legislation reaffirms the mission of our Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship – first announced in September 2009 – which works to unleash and maximize the economic potential of new ideas by more quickly moving them from the research lab to the marketplace.

This renewed commitment to science, education and technology illustrated through bipartisan Congressional support for the America COMPETES Act will greatly benefit the work done at the U.S. Commerce Department, and help fuel U.S. job growth, economic development and global competitiveness. |  Locke statement | White House blog | NIST release

 

NOAA and FDA Announce Chemical Test for Dispersant in Gulf Seafood

Building upon the extensive testing and protocols already in use by federal, state and local officials for the fishing waters of the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have developed and are using a chemical test to detect dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon-BP oil spill in fish, oysters, crab and shrimp. Trace amounts of the chemicals used in dispersants are common, and levels for safety have been previously set.

Experts trained in a rigorous sensory analysis process have been testing Gulf seafood for the presence of contaminants, and every seafood sample from reopened waters has passed sensory testing for contamination with oil and dispersant. Nonetheless, to ensure consumers have total confidence in the safety of seafood being harvested from the Gulf, NOAA and FDA have added this second test for dispersant when considering reopening Gulf waters to fishing.

Using this new, second test, in the Gulf scientists have tested 1,735 tissue samples including more than half of those collected to reopen Gulf of Mexico federal waters. Only a few showed trace amounts of dispersants residue (13 of the 1,735) and they were well below the safety threshold of 100 parts per million for finfish and 500 parts per million for shrimp, crabs and oysters. As such, they do not pose a threat to human health.  NOAA release

NOAA Establishes Supercomputing Center in West Virginia

Image depicting new state-of-the-art NOAA supercomputer center in Fairmont, W. VaNOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco today announced a $27.6 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act investment to build a new state-of-the-art supercomputer center in Fairmont, W. Va. Lubchenco was joined by U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the NOAA Environmental Security Computing Center (NESCC), which is geared to develop and improve the accuracy of global and regional climate and weather model predictions.

“This state-of-the-art supercomputer will not only give NOAA a powerful new tool in climate and weather modeling and service delivery, it will also cement north central West Virginia's reputation as a growing high-tech center,” said Rep. Mollohan. “This facility will help anchor the I-79 Technology Park for decades to come.”  Read more

NOAA Unveils Special Collection of Civil War Maps and Nautical Charts

Map of ChickamaugaIn honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2011, Commerce's Nationasl Oceanic and Atmospheric Administation (NOAA) has assembled a special historical collection of maps, charts, and documents prepared by the U.S. Coast Survey during the war years. The collection, “Charting a More Perfect Union,” contains over nearly 400 documents, available free from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey website.

“People are planning now for their visits to Civil War sites next year, and we want to give them an opportunity to visualize the terrain, ports, and coasts as they were from 1861 to 1865,” said Meredith Westington, NOAA’s chief geographer. “Most people wouldn’t think of turning to NOAA for historical Civil War documents, but the agency has an amazing legacy.”

Coast Survey’s collection includes 394 Civil War-era maps, including nautical charts used for naval campaigns, and maps of troop movements and battlefields. Rarely seen publications include Notes on the Coast, prepared by Coast Survey to help Union forces plan naval blockades against the Confederacy, and the annual report summaries by Superintendent Bache as he detailed the trials and tribulations of producing the maps and charts needed to meet growing military demands. | The Civil War special collection is accessible through a searchable database at www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/history/CivilWar. |  Read more 

Secretary Locke to Appoint Special Master to Review NOAA Law Enforcement Cases, Restricts Use of the Asset Forfeiture Fund

On September 23, 2010, U.S. Commerce Secretary Locke announced sweeping reforms to increase accountability and transparency and strengthen the public’s trust in NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation. Locke, invoking his authority under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, announced he will appoint the Honorable Charles B. Swartwood, III (Ret.) to serve as Special Master to review enforcement cases the Commerce Department’s Inspector General identified in its most recent report as problematic, some dating as far back as 2001. Locke will also ask the Special Master to review the complaints that the IG received that were not discussed in the September Report to see if review of those complaints is also warranted.  Judge Swartwood will make recommendations to Locke on whether to take action to modify or remit the penalties.

Judge Swartwood formerly served as Chief Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts and currently serves as the Chairman of the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission.

NOAA Provides Easy Access to Historical Atlantic Hurricane Tracks

Website provides storm paths by ZIP code; includes population trends, storm history

Graphic from NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks tool shows all hurricanes passing within 65 nautical miles of Cape Hatteras, N.C., since 1900.An updated NOAA website lets everyone from reporters to city planners track local historical storm activity, review specific storm tracks and obtain information about a particular storm’s landfall. NOAA’s Historical Hurricane Tracks website and mapping application generates customized, downloadable maps based on more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane data.

The Historical Hurricane Tracks tool, developed by NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in partnership with the National Hurricane Center, allows users to search by U.S. ZIP code, state or county, storm name or year, or latitude and longitude points. With the search results, users can generate a map showing the storm track accompanied by a table of related information.  Read more  |  Larger graphic

NOAA-Sponsored Scientists First to Map Offshore San Andreas Fault and Associated Ecosystems

This mulitbeam sonar image shows the San Andreas Fault cutting through the head of Noyo CanyonFor the first time, scientists are using advanced technology and an innovative vessel to study, image, and map the unexplored offshore Northern San Andreas Fault from north of San Francisco to its termination at the junction of three tectonic plates off Mendocino, California.

The team includes scientists from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon State University, the California Seafloor Mapping Program, the U.S. Geological Survey and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The expedition which concludes Sunday is sponsored by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

While the fault on land is obscured by erosion, vegetation and urbanization in many places, scientists expect the subsea portion of the fault to include deep rifts and high walls, along with areas supporting animal life. The expedition team is using high-resolution sonar mapping, subsurface seismic data and imaging with digital cameras for the first-ever three-dimensional bathymetric-structural map that will model the undersea Northern San Andreas Fault and its structure. Little is known about the offshore fault due to perennial bad weather that has limited scientific investigations.

NIST Awards $50 Million in Grants for Construction of Science Facilities

Artist rendering of new science facilityThe U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today awarded a total of $50 million in grants to five institutions to support the construction of new scientific research facilities that will explore everything from nanometer-scale electronics and “green” buildings to microbe ecosystems in the oceans. The five projects receiving funding under the NIST Construction Grant Program (NCGP) will contribute to almost $133 million in new laboratory construction projects, according to grantees.

“Strengthening research and development in the United States is critical to our ability to create jobs and remain competitive,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “These construction grants will help the U.S. produce world-leading research in science and technology that will advance our economic growth and international competitiveness.”  Release  |  Read more on the Construction Program

NOAA: Fourth-Warmest U.S. Summer on Record

U.S. temperature map graphicThe contiguous United States had its fourth-warmest summer (June-August) on record, according to the latest NOAA State of the Climate report issued today. The report also showed the August average temperature was 75.0 degrees F, which is 2.2 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Last month’s average precipitation was 2.41 inches, 0.19 inch below the 1901-2000 average.

The monthly analysis, based on records dating back to 1895, is prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.  Read more

NOAA Reopens More than 30,000 Square Miles in the Gulf to Fishing

Map of Reopened Fishing AreaToday NOAA reopened 3,114 square miles of Gulf waters offshore of the western Florida panhandle to commercial and recreational fishing. The reopening was announced after consultation with FDA and under a re-opening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil, and fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

“We are pleased to continue moving forward with reopening portions of Gulf federal waters to recreational and commercial fishing,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “I’d like to thank everyone for their patience throughout this process, as we work to ensure seafood safety remains our primary objective.”

At its closest point, the area to be reopened is about 55 miles northeast of the Deepwater/BP wellhead. The total area is about one percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Release

Scientists Release the First Rescued, Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Back into the Gulf

Photo of Kemp’s ridley sea turtleCommerce's NOAA administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Adm. Thad Allen joined state, federal, and partner biologists today as they released 23 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Key, Fla., after the turtles were successfully rescued and rehabilitated from the effects of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

“I'm pleased that Admiral Allen and I were able to assist with the release of these turtles. And we thank all of our partners in this rescue and rehabilitation effort,” said Dr. Lubchenco. “This is a wonderful day for all involved--but especially for the turtles.”

“This area near Cedar Key provides excellent habitat for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and has long been known as an important habitat area for this species,” said Barbara Schroeder, NOAA’s national sea turtle coordinator. “Thanks to the efforts of our rescue teams and rehabilitation facility partners all of the turtles we released today have an excellent chance of surviving in the wild and contributing to the recovery of this species.”  Read full NOAA release

Vice President Biden, Secretary Locke and Senior Administration Officials Announce $1.8 Billion in Recovery Act Broadband Projects

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today joined Reps. Jay Inslee and Brian Baird at the Seattle Central Library in announcing a $54.5 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) investment to help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth, create jobs, and improve education and healthcare in difficult terrain both east and west of the Cascade mountain range in Washington state.

“This critical investment will lay the groundwork for sustainable economic growth by connecting difficult terrain both east and west of the Cascades that have been without the full economic, educational and social benefits of high-speed Internet,” Locke said.

Following the announcement in Seattle, Secretary Locke joined Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa in a news conference call to announce six grants totalling more $200 million to expand high-speed Internet access and adoption in California. In addition, U.S. Department of Commerce Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Wade joined U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, and U.S. Reps. Mike Ross and Vic Snyder in Little Rock in announcing a $102 million Recovery Act investment that will help improve economic opportunity and support job creation in Arkansas.

Earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden announced approximately $1.8 billion in new projects that will create jobs and expand economic opportunities within 37 states across America.  Remarks  |  Read more  |  White House release

Secretary Locke Announces $31.3 Million in Restoration and Recovery Grants for Louisiana, Gulf

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke visited Louisiana today to hear from local business owners and community members who have been directly affected by the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. At an economic roundtable in Metairie, La., Locke announced $31.3 million in coastal restoration and economic development grants for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

“These grants are another sign of this administration’s commitment to help the Gulf Coast’s economy and environment recover in the wake of the BP oil spill,” Locke said.

A $30.7 million restoration grant, awarded to the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration by Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will fund the restoration of a critical barrier headland near Port Fourchon, La. The headland, which experiences some of the highest shoreline retreat rates in the nation, protects vital bay and wetland habitat and property from storm surge and erosion. Louisiana’s coastal habitat is the state’s first line of defense during storms, reducing the devastating effects of wind, waves, and flooding.

In addition, Locke announced a $600,000 effort by Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to fund the deployment of 21 Assessment and Evaluation teams to communities affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf.  Read more

NOAA: Second-Warmest July and Warmest Year-to-Date Global Temperature on Record

Map of U.S. temperaturesThe combined global land and ocean surface temperature made this July the second-warmest on record, behind 1998, and the warmest averaged January–July on record. The global average land surface temperature for July and January–July was warmest on record. The global ocean surface temperature for July was the fifth-warmest, and for January–July 2010 was the second-warmest on record, behind 1998.

The monthly analysis from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, which is based on records going back to 1880, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.  Read more here

NOAA Reopens More Than 5,000 Square Miles of Closed Gulf Fishing Area

Map of Gulf WatersToday NOAA reopened 5,144 square miles of Gulf waters to commercial and recreational finfish fishing. The reopening was announced after consultation with FDA and under a reopening protocol agreed to by NOAA, the FDA, and the Gulf states.

Since July 3, NOAA data have shown no oil in the area, and United States Coast Guard observers flying over the area in the last 30 days have also not observed any oil. Trajectory models show the area is at a low risk for future exposure to oil and, most importantly, fish caught in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

“Consumer safety is NOAA’s primary concern, which is why we developed rigorous safety standards in conjunction with the FDA and the Gulf states to ensure that seafood is safe in the reopened area,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “We are confident that Gulf fish from this area is safe to eat and pleased that recreational and commercial fisherman can fish these waters again.”  Read more

NOAA Still Expects Active Atlantic Hurricane Season; La Niña Develops

Image of Hurricane Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, hits northeast Mexico on June 30. From Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): The Atlantic Basin remains on track for an active hurricane season, according to the scheduled seasonal outlook update issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. With the season’s peak just around the corner – late August through October – the need for preparedness plans is essential.

NOAA also announced today that, as predicted last spring, La Niña has formed in the tropical Pacific Ocean. This favors lower wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storm clouds to grow and organize. Other climate factors pointing to an active hurricane season are warmer-than-average water in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, and the tropical multi-decadal signal, which since 1995 has brought favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions in unison, leading to more active seasons.  Read more here

Federal Science Report Details Fate of Oil from BP Spill

Alternate TextThe vast majority of the oil from the BP oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed  much of which is in the process of being degraded. A significant amount of this is the direct result of the robust federal response efforts.

A third (33 percent) of the total amount of oil released in the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill was captured or mitigated by the Unified Command recovery operations, including burning, skimming, chemical dispersion and direct recovery from the wellhead, according to a federal science report released today.  See NOAA release

Commerce's NOAA: U.S. Had Eighth-Warmest June on Record, Above-Normal Precipation

Map of U.S. showing June temperaturesNOAA’s State of the Climate report shows the June 2010 average temperature for the contiguous United States was 71.4 degrees F, which is 2.2 degrees F above the long-term average (1901-2000). The average precipitation for June was 3.33 inches, 0.44 inch above the long-term average.   This monthly analysis was prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., based on records dating back to 1895.  More  |  June temperatures  |  June precipitation

NOAA, FDA, and Gulf Coast State Officials Affirm Commitment to Ensuring Safety of Gulf Coast Seafood

Federal and state agencies will use joint protocol for reopening closed waters

Image of tubs of shrimpGulf Coast state health and fisheries officials joined with senior leaders from several federal agencies to affirm a shared commitment to ensuring the safety of seafood coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, through closures of affected waters, surveillance, and with an eye toward reopening closed waters as soon as possible, consistent with public health goals.

Representatives from Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency met last week in New Orleans with state health officers and state fisheries directors from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to coordinate implementation of a joint protocol for sampling and reopening that will apply to both state and federal waters.  

Together, they will implement a comprehensive, coordinated, multi-agency program to ensure that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe to eat. This is important not only for consumers who need to know their food is safe to eat, but also for fishermen who need to be able to sell their products with confidence.

Read more  |  Official statement of acceptance of protocol  |  Summary of the reopening protocol

Secretary Locke Lauds New National Space Policy as Pro Business

Image of rocket launchPresident Obama’s new National Space Policy sets goals and guidelines for American space activities and promotes a robust and competitive U.S. commercial space sector, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said today.  The policy also puts increased emphasis on space-based environmental observations and international cooperation, both critical functions of the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The policy, released today, is the Obama administration’s first comprehensive policy guiding our endeavors in space. It addresses commercial space by directing government agencies to encourage and facilitate the growth of a U.S. commercial space sector through increased U.S. purchases of commercial space goods, reducing the regulatory impact on the space industry and actively promoting the export of U.S. space products.  Read more   White House fact sheet

Find additional information about the National Space Policy at www.space.commerce.gov.

NOAA Launches Website With Online Mapping Tool to Track Gulf Response

Image of mapping tool

The dynamic nature of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill has been a challenge for a range of communities--from hotel operators to fishermen to local community leaders. And the American people have questions about the response to this crisis.

Today, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launches a new federal Web site meant to answer those questions with clarity and transparency--a one-stop shop for detailed near-real-time information about the response to the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. The Web site incorporates data from the various agencies that are working together to tackle the spill.

Originally designed for responders, who make operational decisions, to the oil spill disaster, http://www.GeoPlatform.gov/gulfresponse integrates the latest data on the oil spill’s trajectory, fishery closed areas, wildlife and place-based Gulf Coast resources--such as pinpointed locations of oiled shoreline and daily position of research ships--into one customizable interactive map.

Image of Deep Drill 3 platformThe launch of the public site is designed to facilitate communication and coordination among a variety of users--from federal, state and local responders to local community leaders and the public--the site is designed to be fast, user-friendly and constantly updated.

Beyond NOAA data, the site includes data from Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, the Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA, NASA , U.S. Geological Survey and the Gulf states . Agencies contribute data through the response data sharing mechanism within the command posts. This includes posting geospatial data on a common server, allowing access and use for multiple spatial platforms.

“This Web site provides users with an expansive, yet detailed geographic picture of what’s going on with the spill; Gulf Coast fisherman, recreational boaters, beach users and birders will be able to become more informed,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “It’s a common operational picture that allows the American people to see how their government is responding to the crisis.”

Developed through a joint partnership between NOAA and the University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Response Research Center, the site is a Web-based GIS platform designed specifically for response activities where it is necessary to coordinate with various federal, state and local agencies. The site will serve as the official federal source for map-based data.  Interactive Map   Deepwater Horizon update

http://gomex.erma.noaa.gov/

NOAA and Partners Urge Beach-Goers to 'Break the Grip of the Rip'

Break the Grip of the Rip brochure imageWith summer vacation on the horizon, Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Lifesaving Association, and the National Park Service are alerting beach-goers to the threat of rip currents and how to prevent drowning from their strong and potentially fatal grip.

Rip currents are the leading near-shore surf hazard, claiming more than 100 lives per year nationally. For that reason, the three organizations are teaming up to sponsor the Rip Current Awareness Campaign from June 6 through 12, with the theme Break the Grip of the Rip®.

NOAA’s National Weather Service forecast offices issue surf zone forecasts, which include rip current information during the summer beach season between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It is important to remember though that rip currents can occur anywhere there is surf.

“Every year, more than 75 million visitors come to swim, fish, snorkel, scuba dive, boat and enjoy the wildlife and majestic scenery in our coastal national parks,” said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. “To enhance our ability to provide visitors with the latest information on water safety, we are pleased to team up with NOAA and the United States Lifeguarding Association to educate our visitors about water safety.”

Read More
Awareness Week
: June 6-12, 2010

NOAA Administrator Discusses NOAA Ship Research Mission to Spill Area

Alternate TextCmdr. Shepard Smith, commanding officer, Administrator Lubchenco and Larry Mayer at press conference.NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, a 208-foot survey vessel, sailed from New Orleans today to conduct a 10-day mission in the vicinity of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Researchers will take water samples and test advanced methods for detecting submerged oil while gathering oceanographic data in the area's coastal waters.

NOAA Ship Thomas JeffersonDr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, Cmdr. Shepard Smith, commanding officer, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and Larry Mayer, professor and director, University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping held a news conference in New Orleans to discuss the research mission. Administrator Lubchenco offered more information on the NOAA effort on a live CNN segment earlier in the day.

Tracking the Spill
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson dispatched to Gulf of Mexico
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson ship information and background

NOAA Expects Busy Atlantic Hurricane Season

Satellite photo of Hurricane Ike, 2008An "active to extremely active" hurricane season is expected for the Atlantic Basin this year according to the seasonal outlook issued today by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center – a division of the National Weather Service. As with every hurricane season, this outlook underscores the importance of having a hurricane preparedness plan in place.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the six-month season, which begins June 1, NOAA is projecting a 70 percent probability of the following ranges:

 

  • 14 to 23 Named Storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 8 to 14 Hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
  • 3 to 7 could be Major Hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared.”

Full NOAA release
Hurricane Preparedness Week site

NOAA’s Oil Spill Response in the Gulf of Mexico

NOAA and White House officials examine fish samples taken from spill area

As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been on the scene of the BP spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations.

NOAA has mobilized experts from across the agency to help contain the spreading oil spill and protect the Gulf of Mexico’s many marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, shellfish and other endangered marine life.

NOAA spill specialists are advising the U.S. Coast Guard on cleanup options as well as advising all affected federal, state and local partners on sensitive marine resources at risk in this area of the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally:

  • NOAA is predicting the oil spill’s trajectory and the path of the layers of oil floating on the surface. OR&R experts are conducting aerial surveys to update trajectory maps and visually track the movement of the spill.
  • NOAA’s National Weather Service is providing regular weather forecasts to a joint federal command center in Louisiana to facilitate operations planning and response efforts.
  • Experienced marine mammal spotters from NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center are participating in surveillance flights flown by the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations to assess the species and populations that may come in contact with the spill.
  • NOAA also is using experimental satellite data from our Satellite Analysis Branch to survey the extent of spill-related marine pollution.

As a major partner in the federal response to this evolving incident, NOAA will continue to provide the necessary coastal and marine expertise required for sound, timely decision-making and help protect the affected Gulf Coast communities and coastal marine environment.

Latest News

Secretary Locke Underscores U.S.-Indonesia Partnership, Highlights Value to Economic and Environmental Health

Locke witnesses signing of first-ever Indonesia-U.S. Ocean Exploration Partnership MOUU.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke underscored shared U.S.-Indonesia economic and environmental commitments at an event today at Muara Baru, a commercial fishing port in North Jakarta. Locke addressed joint efforts to prevent illegal and unregulated fishing and witnessed the signing of the first-ever U.S.-Indonesia ocean exploration agreement. He was joined by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono, Research and Technology Minister Suharna Surapranata, Secretary for People's Welfare Indroyono Soesilo, and Dr. Gellwynn Jusuf, Director General for Research, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

Read more

Secretary Locke Announces Fishery Failure Determination in Gulf of Mexico

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today determined there has been a fishery disaster in the Gulf of Mexico due to the economic impact on commercial and recreational fisheries from the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The affected area includes the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

“We are taking this action today because of the potentially significant economic hardship this spill may cause fishermen and the businesses and communities that depend on those fisheries,” Locke said. “The disaster determination will help ensure that the Federal government is in a position to mobilize the full range of assistance that fishermen and fishing communities may need.”

Locke made the determination under Section 312(a) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  The declaration was made in response to requests from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour based on the loss of access to many commercial fisheries and the existing and anticipated environmental damage from this unprecedented event.

Since May 2, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has closed a portion of federal waters affected by the spill to commercial and recreational fishing. This closure area, which is based on the scientific trajectory of the spill, now includes nearly 20 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, largely between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi and the waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.

Full release
Related NOAA release

Latest NOAA status release on oil spill

NOAA: Ocean Stored Significant Warming Over Last 16 Years

The upper layer of the world’s ocean has warmed since 1993, indicating a strong climate change signal, according to a new study. The energy stored is enough to power nearly 500 100-watt light bulbs per each of the roughly 6.7 billion people on the planet.

“We are seeing the global ocean store more heatOcean waves breaking over rocks than it gives off,” said John Lyman, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, who led an international team of scientists that analyzed nine different estimates of heat content in the upper ocean from 1993 to 2008.

The team combined the estimates to assess the size and certainty of growing heat storage in the ocean. Their findings will be published in the May 20 edition of the journal Nature. The scientists are from NOAA, NASA, the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom, the University of Hamburg in Germany and the Meteorological Research Institute in Japan.

The team combined the estimates to assess the size and certainty of growing heat storage in the ocean. Their findings will be published in the May 20 edition of the journal Nature. The scientists are from NOAA, NASA, the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom, the University of Hamburg in Germany and the Meteorological Research Institute in Japan.  

Read the full story here.

NOAA: Above-Normal Temperatures and Below-Normal Precipitation in April

Graphic of temperature mapNOAA's State of the Climate report shows the April 2010 average temperature for the contiguous United States was 54.3 degress F, which is 2.3 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average (14th-warmest April on record). April's average precipitation was 2.18 inches, 0.25 inch below the 1901-2000 average, based on a 116-year record since 1895, this monthly analysis is prepared by scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. (Release) (Temperature graphic) (Precipitation graphic)

Secretary Locke, Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Lubchenco Visit Gulf Coast

Trajectory mapAt the direction of President Obama, Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco visited the Gulf Coast to meet with federal, state and local officials, and local business leaders as part of their continued oversight of BP’s efforts to plug the leak and contain the spill, and their ongoing emphasis on interagency coordination in response to the event. All three officials traveled to Biloxi, Miss. Locke and Napolitano continued on to Pensacola, Fla., in the afternoon. (NOAA-Deepwater) (Current trajectory map—PDF) (Incident News)

NOAA: Deepwater Horizon Incident, Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Update

Photo of Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill from NASA Satellite

Improving weather today allowed both NOAA overflights and dispersant operations to resume. Today, four aircraft applied dispersants to the surface slick, and dispersant application by vessels is expected to begin tomorrow. Monitoring of the dispersant efforts are ongoing. NOAA overflights were conducted over the source as well as south from Mobile. At present, technical specialists and other personnel from many agencies and organizations are assisting NOAA in providing scientific support for the spill response. (Incident News)

NOAA: Deepwater Incident, Gulf of Mexico Effort

Trajectory map--PDF.

The Deepwater Horizon incident declared a Spill of National Significance (SONS). A SONS is defined as "a spill that, due to its severity, size, location, actual or potential impact on the public health and welfare or the environment, or the necessary response effort, is so complex that it requires extraordinary coordination of federal, state, local and responsible party resources to contain and clean up the discharge," and allows greater federal involvement. Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is assisting the Unified Command in evaluating a new technique to apply dispersants to oil at the source—5000’ below the surface. If successful, this would keep plumes and sheens from forming. (More) (NOAA-Deepwater) (Trajectory map 1—PDF) (IncidentNews: Deepwater Horizon)

NOAA Awards $73.6 Million Recovery Act Contract for New Fisheries Survey Vessel

NOAA logo

Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded a $73.6 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contract to Marinette Marine Corporation located in Marinette, Wisconsin, for the construction of a new fisheries survey vessel, which will dramatically improve NOAA’s ability to conduct surveys for fish, marine mammals and turtles off the U.S. “Thanks to the Recovery Act, this new vessel will greatly enhance our understanding of our ocean resources and play a vital role in supporting NOAA’s mission,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator.” (More)

Commerce's NOAA Tracks Ash from Iceland Volcano

Image of video screen. Click to go to video clip.

Credit: NOAA/EUMESTAT/NASA

The eruption of a volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier of Iceland on Wednesday, April 14, sent ripple effects around the globe as it halted international flights to and from Northern Europe. Airborne volcanic ash posed a threat to jet engines, and to prevent disaster, air traffic controllers grounded planes. From the earliest moments of the eruption, a global network of Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers began monitoring the ash plume and the appropriate centers issued advisories about flow of the ash through the atmosphere. There are nine such centers, each responsible for a defined geographic region. (More) (Video clip) (Image of ash cloud)

NOAA: Global Temps Push Last Month Hottest March on Record

Temperature anomolies map. Click for larger image.

The world’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature made last month the warmest March on record, according to Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Taken separately, average ocean temperatures were the warmest for any March and the global land surface was the fourth warmest for any March on record. Additionally, the planet has seen the fourth warmest January-March period on record. The monthly National Climatic Data Center analysis, which is based on records going back to 1880. (More) (Temperature anomalies graphic). (State of the Climate report)

NOAA: U.S. Averaged Warmer-than Normal, Drier-than-Normal in March

Map of March temperature. Click for larger image.

NOAA’s State of the Climate report shows the March 2010 average temperature for the entire contiguous United States was warmer-than-average with several New England states experiencing one of the warmest March’s on record. Average precipitation for the U.S. was below normal, but heavy rainfall set March records in parts of the Northeast. Based on data going back to 1895, the monthly analyses are prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina. (More) (Temperatures) (Precipitation levels)

NOAA's GOES-15 Weather Satellite Captures Its First Image of Earth

View of Eath taken by GOES-15. Click for larger image.

GOES-15, launched on March 4 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, joins three other NOAA operational GOES spacecraft that help the agency's forecasters track life-threatening weather—from tornadoes, floods and hurricanes—and solar activity that can impact the satellite-based electronics and communications industry. The black and white full-disk image shows North and South America with a storm system visible across the United States, indicated by a drape of clouds from New England westward to the central Plains. Further west is a cold front over the Rocky Mountains. Mostly clear skies are seen over the mid-Atlantic, southeastern U.S., Gulf of Mexico, California and Mexico. (More)

Norfolk, Va.-based NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson to Map Ocean Floor in Gulf of Mexico

Thomas Jefferson. Click for larger image.

Commerce’s NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, one of the most technologically advanced hydrographic survey vessels in the world, will depart its Norfolk, Va. homeport on April 6 to conduct a five-month long effort to map the seafloor and look for hazards to navigation off the Gulf coast. “The Gulf of Mexico has been affected by a number of large hurricanes in recent years, and our work will pinpoint the resulting hazards and shoals in these busy waters,” said Cmdr. Shepard Smith, Thomas Jefferson’s commanding officer. (More)

50th Anniversary of the Satellite that "Forever Changed Weather Forecasting"

One of the first satellite images. Click for a full version.

Fifty years ago today, the world’s first weather satellite lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and opened a new and exciting dimension in weather forecasting. Top leaders from Commerce’s NOAA and NASA hailed the milestone as an example of their agencies’ strong partnership and commitment to flying the best satellites today and beyond. The first image from the satellite, known as TIROS-1, was a fuzzy picture of thick bands and clusters of clouds over the United States. An image captured a few days later revealed a typhoon about 1,000 miles east of Australia. TIROS-1, a polar-orbiting satellite, weighed 270 pounds and carried two cameras and two video recorders. (More)

NOAA: Sixth-Warmest February in Combined Global Surface Temperature, Fifth-Warmest December-February

Last month’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature made it the sixth-warmest February ever recorded. Additionally, the December 2009-February 2010 period was the fifth-warmest on record averaged for any similar three-month Northern Hemisphere winter-Southern Hemisphere summer season, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Based on records going back to 1880, the monthly NCDC analysis is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to businesses, communities and governments so they may make informed decisions to safeguard their social and economic well-being. (More)

NOAA: Imminent Flood Threat in Midwest, South and East at Risk

Map of U.S. showing areas of flood risk. Click for larger image.

Major flooding has begun and is forecast to continue through spring in parts of the Midwest according to NOAA’s National Weather Service. The South and East are also more susceptible to flooding as an El Niño influenced winter left the area soggier than usual. Overall, more than a third of the contiguous United States has an above average flood risk—with the highest threat in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa, including along the Red River Valley where crests could approach the record levels set just last year. (More)

FEMA and NOAA Renew Partnership to Encourage Flood Safety

NOAA logo. Click to go to Web site.

As one of the snowiest winter seasons in many years yields to warmer weather and the promise of rain and snowmelt, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) FloodSmart campaign and Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced they are again working together during Flood Safety Awareness Week (March 15-19) to raise awareness of the dangers associated with flooding and steps to protect against damage. (More) (Map)

NOAA: U.S. Winter and February Cooler Than Average

U.S. map graphic with temperature ranges. Click for full-size graphic.

Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that temperatures were below normal for the contiguous U.S. for the winter season (December through February). The winter season was wetter than normal; however precipitation in February alone was slightly below average. Based on data going back to 1895, the monthly analyses are prepared by scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. (More) (Temperature map) (Precipitation map) (State of the Climate Report)