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NOAA’s El Niño observing system project in the Pacific Ocean was awarded a “Gracie” today by Government Executive magazine during its annual Government Technology Leadership Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The Grace Hopper Government Technology Award is named for pioneer computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper. The “Gracies” highlight outstanding use of technology in government by recognizing projects that make exceptional contributions to mission accomplishment, cost effectives and service to the public. A panel of leading experts on the federal government’s use of technology drawn from the government, federal contractors and the academic community selects the winners.

“NOAA’s Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) project reminds us of how much there is still to be learned about the workings of our planet through monitoring and remote sensing,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, PhD, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “TAO is a critical part of the foundation of a global Earth Observing System that has saved lives and helped the U.S. economy.”

The TAO network of moored ocean buoys monitor El Niño in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and serve as a cornerstone of NOAA’s mission of improving seasonal to interannual climate forecasts.

The network of moored ocean buoys monitor El Niño in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and serve as a cornerstone of NOAA’s mission of improving seasonal to interannual climate forecasts.

“I am very pleased that the TAO project has been recognized for its scientific and technological innovation,” said Eddie N. Bernard, director of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Wash., which designed, created and maintains the system.

Development of the TAO array was motivated by the 1982-1983 El Niño event, the strongest of the century up to that time, which was neither predicted nor detected until nearly at its peak. The event highlighted the need for real-time data from the tropical Pacific for both monitoring, prediction and improved understanding of El Niño.

“We take great pride in having developed an end-to-end observing system that starts with laboratory and field work and ends on the desk tops of scientists, forecasters, policy makers, students and the general public,” said Michael McPhaden, director of the TAO Project. “Our success is a tribute to the dedication of TAO project staff whose talents and creativity have made this system possible.”

McPhaden added that the recognition is also a tribute to enlightened NOAA management that for many years has supported the implementation and maintenance of the TAO array. This award both encourages and challenges NOAA to continue developing applications of information technology that benefit ourselves, the nation and the world.”

The TAO Web site (address below) provides easy, user-customizable access to both historical and realtime data, graphics, animations and 3-D visualizations, as well as current technical information about buoy systems, sensor accuracies, sampling characteristics and a comprehensive resource suite of Web pages focused on El Niño.

According to NOAA’s chief economist, the TAO project’s annual economic return to the U.S. economy is between 13 and 26 percent, which is significantly higher than the Office of Management and Budget's 5.8 percent minimum rate of return specified for federal projects.

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through research to better understand weather and climate-related events and to manage wisely our nation's coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:


Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Project (TAO):