An introduction to the NOAA/CO-OPS coastal meteorological network
CO-OPS operates and maintains stations in different climate regions, therefore steps must be taken to ensure data continuity during, for example, harsh winters in Alaska and the Great Lakes, and during the hurricane season, especially in the Gulf. To mitigate freezing problems in cold-climate regions a different model of anemometer is used (e.g. an ice-resistant propeller, or a heated ultrasonic). For the Gulf region, CO-OPS has designed new hardened stations built to withstand a category-4 hurricane. There are currently nine hardened stations installed, some of which are unique structures called “Sentinels” that consist of a large single pile driven into the seafloor. Two Sentinels in Louisiana successfully captured oceanographic and meteorological data during Hurricanes Gustav and Ike as they made landfall.
Because of CO-OPS' wide coastal network and real-time data availability, data are often used by emergency managers to make decisions related to evacuation and warnings for coastal communities as well as to produce storm surge predictions. A tropical storm bulletin, or QuickLook, is posted to the website in tandem with an NHC advisory update if there is a tropical storm warning for the US Coast. This bulletin displays continuously updating near real-time oceanographic and meteorological information as measured by stations in the affected area. CO-OPS also posts QuickLook bulletins for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to provide users with winds and water level information, specifically. CO-OPS water level and meteorological data are also useful for storm tracking. For example, real-time wind and water level data were heavily used by media and other emergency managers during the November 2009 Nor'easter that caused major coastal flooding.
CO-OPS meteorological network continues to grow as part of an effort to upgrade all water level stations with meteorological sensors. Furthermore, CO-OPS has begun testing rain gauges and radiation sensors as possible additions to the suite of products and to aid in quality control checks. All CO-OPS data are available on the CO-OPS operational websites Tides Online (http://tidesonline.nos.noaa.gov), or Great Lakes Online (http://glakesonline.nos.noaa.gov), through the CO-OPS webpage (http://www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov) and through the IOOS Web Portal (http://opendap.co-ops.nos.noaa.gov).