An introduction to the NOAA/CO-OPS coastal meteorological network

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Thursday, 27 January 2011: 4:30 PM
An introduction to the NOAA/CO-OPS coastal meteorological network
607 (Washington State Convention Center)
Kathleen Egan, NOAA/NOS, Silver Spring, MD; and E. B. Roggenstein

The NOAA/National Ocean Services (NOS)/Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) has long been the steward of tides and currents data for the US coastline. Many continuous water level records are over 100 years in length. Beginning in 1990, CO-OPS began supplementing water level observations with meteorological data, beginning with installations at water level stations located in major ports and harbors. Since then, the CO-OPS coastal meteorological network has quickly grown and meteorological data are now available to the public at approximately 300 water level stations (including partner stations), from Maine through Alaska, the Great Lakes, and US territories including Puerto Rico and Pacific Islands. A standard meteorological installation at a water level station now includes dual anemometers, an air temperature sensor and a barometer, all providing data at 6-minute intervals. Recently, visibility data were integrated into the suite of observations, and CO-OPS now operates and maintains two visibility stations in the Mobile Bay. CO-OPS also disseminates water temperature data from approximately 275 stations (including partner stations). A 24x7 team of quality control operators conducts real-time quality checks of all CO-OPS data, systems and products to ensure data reliability. Data are incorporated into the National Data Buoy Center systems and undergo further real-time and daily quality control checks. The data are also packaged into SHEF bulletins, and go through the NWS Telecommunication Gateway, making them available to a wider user community, including AWIPS users.

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).