4.3 NOAA/National Ocean Service Northern Gulf of Mexico Operational Forecast System

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 4:00 PM
Room 18B (Austin Convention Center)
Eugene Wei, NOAA, Silver Spring, MD; and F. Aikman, Z. Yang, Y. Chen, J. Kelley, A. Zhang, D. Cao, C. Urizar, J. Cassidy, S. Hsiao, and C. C. Magee

An Operational Forecast System for the Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOFS) has been developed and implemented by NOAA's National Ocean Service (NOS). Based on the Finite-Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM) the NGOFS became operational in April 2012 to provide real-time nowcast and short-range forecast guidance for water levels and 3-dimensional currents, water temperature and salinity over the northern Gulf of Mexico shelf in support of the marine navigation, emergency response and environmental management communities. The system will also be the physical foundation for an emerging ecological forecasting capability for the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The NGOFS model domain covers the Northern Gulf of Mexico continental shelf from South Padre, TX (west) to Panama City, FL (east). It is bounded roughly by the 200-m isobath along the shelf break (south). The model grid is composed of 90,267 nodes and 174,474 triangular elements. The resolution varies from approximately 150 m near the coast to 11 km close to the continental shelf break. This grid resolution configuration ensures relatively accurate forecast guidance over the model domain. During the NGOFS development, the model has been evaluated with a one-year (August 2008 – July 2009) and a 6-month (October 2010 – March 2011) hindcast to verify the quality and accuracy of the model simulated water levels, currents, salinity and temperature.

The NGOFS uses real-time and forecast data to update the nowcast (-6 hours to zero) and forecast guidance (2-day forecast) four times per day (every six hours). NGOFS is run on the NOAA Central Computer System operated by the National Weather Service (NWS) National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Central Operations with forecast cycles of 0, 6, 12 and 18 UTC. The data and forcing used for the NGOFS nowcast/forecast includes atmospheric forecast guidance from the NOAA/NWS, North American Mesoscale (NAM) numerical weather prediction modeling system, real-time oceanographic observations from NOS's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS), river discharge observations from U.S. Geological Survey gauges, and open ocean boundary conditions derived from the NWS Global Real-Time Operational Forecast System (G-RTOFS; based on the HYCOM model). No data is assimilated into NGOFS.

The NGOFS forecast guidance is displayed on the CO-OPS web site at http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/ofs/ngofs/ngofs.html. This includes animated maps, as well as time series at particular observing stations or points of interest at 73 locations, that are available for surface winds, water levels and surface water currents, water temperature and salinity. The NGOFS' gridded and point forecast guidance on its native model grid is available in netCDF via the CO-OPS data server (http://opendap.coops.nos.noaa.gov/thredds/catalog.html) and the NCEP ftp server at the NOAA Web Operation Center (ftpprd.ncep.noaa.gov).

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