2B.3 Transitioning an Early Warning System for Harmful Algal Blooms on Pacific Northwest Beaches to Operations

Monday, 8 January 2018: 11:00 AM
Room 10AB (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Vera Trainer, NOAA, Seattle, WA; and N. Banas, R. McCabe, B. M. Hickey, P. MacCready, B. Bormann, M. Hunter, R. Kudela, M. Suddleson, C. Alex, and T. C. Vance

Transition of ecological research models and services to operational status is a focus of NOAA's Ecological Forecasting Roadmap strategic vision. Ecological forecasts in the Roadmap include harmful algal blooms (HABs), pathogens, hypoxic zones, and habitat changes such as coral bleaching . A new HAB monitoring program for offshore HAB “hotspots” in the Pacific Northwest such as the Juan de Fuca Eddy and Heceta Bank, together with a state-of-the-art forecasting system for HAB transport to beaches, based on the Live Ocean model, are the enhanced, experimental elements of a Pacific Northwest HAB Bulletin (PNW HAB Bulletin). Efforts are underway to transition this Bulletin from experimental to operational status - one of the highest priority projects of NOAA’s Ecological Forecasting Roadmap for transitioning research to operations over the next few years.

The current practice of beachside monitoring of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Pacific Northwest allows coastal managers to detect when a toxic bloom has already arrived at a given beach but does not provide any advance warning, leading to preemptively conservative beach closures and large, potentially avoidable economic impacts. Longer lead time and improved spatial precision allow managers to optimize their deployment of limited monitoring resources, and let them provide the public with longer advance warning and refine the timing and scope of beach closures.

Critical weather-related elements of the current experimental PNW HAB bulletin include the University of Washington (Cliff Mass) version of the Western Regional Forecast weather model - used to force the Live Ocean model - as well as routine, standard National Weather Service (NWS) products including the NWS marine forecast. High frequency radar (HFR) data are also used to understand surface currents. Together with the NWS products and LiveOcean, the project team will use data on toxins in both the water and in razor clams available through Washington and Oregon surf-zone and shellfish monitoring programs, such as the Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom (ORHAB) program, and Oregon's HAB monitoring program. Interpretation and timely display of these data sets into the PNW HAB Bulletin provides critical information to coastal managers who open and close shellfish beaches that support hundreds of millions of dollars annually in coastal tourism, and are essential to coastal tribes for subsistence and commercial income.

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