NOAA 2004-R457
Contact: Ben Sherman

NOAA News Releases 2004
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


On June 30 ship traffic in Galveston Bay, Texas will have a new tool to assist in safe navigation. The Galveston Bay Operational Forecast System, created by NOAA’s National Ocean Service, provides mariners, port managers and emergency response teams with present and future conditions of water levels, currents, temperature and salinity. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The NOAA Operational Forecast System is of tremendous importance to the marine commerce industry,” said Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., assistant administrator of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “The information it provides will assist port managers and shippers in making decisions regarding maximum tonnage (based on bottom clearances) and passage times, without compromising safety,”

Spinrad said that waterborne cargo contributes more than $742 billion to the United States gross domestic product and creates jobs for more than 13 million people. “Promoting safe navigation is a critical contribution of NOAA to the nation’s economy,” he said.

GBOFS “nowcast” (for present conditions) and “forecast” (for future conditions) products are generated by a three dimensional hydrodynamic model that uses real-time and forecast data to predict this information at thousands of locations throughout Galveston Bay.

The nowcast component performs hourly updates and is driven primarily by real-time water levels and winds from the Galveston Bay Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®). The “forecast” component performs a continual 30-hour prediction, four times a day (every six hours). Primary inputs to the forecasts include initialization from the nowcast model, tidal harmonics and forecast guidance of subtidal water levels and winds obtained from operational NOAA National Weather Service models.

Galveston Bay includes the seaports of Houston, Galveston and Texas City that collectively comprise the second largest port in North America, handling more than 241 million tons of cargo annually.

In addition to GBOFS, NOAA’s National Ocean Service also developed and maintains the Chesapeake Bay Operational Forecast System (CBOFS) and the New York Operational Forecast System (NYOFS). Systems for other U.S. water bodies are to be added. Port authorities, vessel pilots, shipping companies, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, recreational boaters, fishermen, coastal managers, environmental organizations, academia and surfers all use this information.

The system was developed by NOS’ Coast Survey Development Laboratory and will be operated by the ocean service's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS).

CO-OPS collects, analyzes and distributes historical and real-time observations and predictions of water levels, coastal currents and other meteorological and oceanographic data. The center manages the National Operational Coastal Modeling Program, the National Water Level Program, the national network of PORTS® in major U.S. harbors, and the National Current Program.

CSDL develops and improves oceanographic, cartographic and hydrographic systems to provide products and services for the coastal marine community. Oceanographic efforts focus on the development of techniques and methods for the analysis, simulation and accurate real-time prediction of oceanographic, atmospheric and water quality parameters. Projects include estuarine and port modeling and forecasting, coastal modeling and forecasting, and operational data resources.

NOAA’s National Ocean Service, which includes CO-OPS and CSDL, balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:


NOAA’s National Ocean Service: