NOAA 2004-026
Contact: David Miller

NOAA News Releases 2004
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The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is a multi-faceted science agency with nearly 12,500 employees across the nation. The agency conducts research and gathers data about the global oceans, atmosphere, space, and sun, and applies this knowledge to science and service that has a major impact on the nation. NOAA provides weather information, warns of dangerous weather, charts the seas and guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources. Some element of NOAA’s work literally touches peoples’ lives every day.

“NOAA is where science gains value and this is evident when you consider that each day NOAA services touch at least $3 trillion of America’s economy. That’s about 30 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Americans rely on NOAA for an incredible variety of products ranging from the local weather forecast, to keeping the ocean coastline safe and vibrant, for a sustainable supply of quality seafood, to the safe transport of millions of tons of waterborne cargo, and even keeping a close eye on the ever changing impact of our sun on space weather.”

Listed below are representative NOAA achievements under the Bush administration in 2003.

  • NOAA played a key role in producing the first Climate Change Strategic Plan as mandated by the 1990 U.S. Global Change Research Act.
  • NOAA joined the U.S. Department of State in hosting the first ever Earth Observation Summit in which thirty-four nations and twenty governmental organizations agreed to a 10-year plan of development for a comprehensive Earth Observing System.

NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, water and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas. Weather services cost each American household approximately $13.00 per year. Several accomplishments in 2003 include:

  • Expanded NOAA Weather Radio to reach ninety-five percent of the American public.
  • During the Midwest tornado outbreak from May 4-10, the NWS utilized the benefits of investments in modern weather technologies and new science. With approximately 400 tornadoes reported during this period, the NWS issued tornado warning with an average lead time of 18 minutes.
  • NOAA’s Tropical Prediction Center/National Hurricane Center issued 2 weeks of advisories on Hurricane Isabel, through its landfall on Sept. 18. Hurricane watches were issued approximately fifty hours prior to landfall and warnings posted thirty-eight hours prior to landfall.
  • The most significant winter storm since 1996 struck the east coast in February 2003. Preliminary estimates indicate the NWS provided an average winter storm watch lead time of thirty-two hours and an average warning lead time of seventeen hours - well ahead of the goal of fourteen hours.
  • NWS obtained use of a new supercomputer to assist in predicting extreme weather days in advance. Operating as a parallel computer system, the computer is capable of making more than 450 billion calculations per second.

NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) is responsible for managing and conserving the nation’s coastal resources - one of our nation’s most valuable assets. Key accomplishments in 2003 include:

  • NOS issued the first ecological forecast of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Issued the first ever report to Congress on the state of coral reefs.
  • NOS-supported scientists deployed newly-developed optical detection technology on autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) to detect harmful algal blooms (HAB), including the organism responsible for red tides off Florida’s coast.
  • NOS responded to 136 marine events, including oil and chemical spills, search and rescue efforts, and other emergencies in 2003. As the federal agency responsible for providing scientific support during such events, NOS is among the first on the scene at a spill. NOS provides information on spill trajectory, potential impacts to the shoreline, cleanup strategies, chemical analysis and basic oil spill science for public outreach.
  • NOAA’s Coastal Storms Initiative is a nationwide effort to lessen the impacts to coastal communities from storms. This initiative helps local, state, and federal organizations work together to use coastal observing systems data to develop new and improved storm-related tools, data, information, forecast models, and training opportunities.

NOAA Fisheries is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources and their habitats through scientific research, fisheries management, law enforcement, and habitat conservation. Accomplishments in 2003 include:

  • Bycatch, living creatures that are caught unintentionally by fishing gear, continues to be a top concern for NOAA Fisheries. Through the National Bycatch Strategy that was implemented in 2003, NOAA Fisheries continues to work to assess our progress and identify areas where more can be done to minimize bycatch.
  • Recovery of Kemp’s Ridley Turtles reached a milestone in 2003 with the documentation of 8,000 nests - compared with 700 nests documented in 1985.
  • In January 2003, NOAA Fisheries completed a Strategic Plan to Reduce Ship Strikes of North Atlantic Right Whales. The draft plan is a comprehensive, multi-year, multi-agency blueprint for addressing ship strikes, one of the most significant known threats to the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale.
  • In October 2003, VT Halter Marine Inc. and NOAA launched the first of four planned NOAA fisheries survey vessels. Christened OSCAR DYSON, the 208 ft. ship will be one of the most technologically advanced fisheries survey vessels in the world when it enters service in the summer of 2004.

NOAA Satellites and Information Service (NESDIS) provides timely access to global environmental data from satellites and other sources to promote, protect, & enhance the nation's economy, security, environment, & quality of life. Key accomplishments in 2003 include:

  • On April 1, GOES -12, the nation’s newest and most advanced geostationary operational environmental satellite, was activated from an on-orbit storage mode, replacing the older GOES-8, which served for almost 10 years. GOES-12 is the first satellite to have an advanced solar storm detector, the Solar X-ray Imager (SXI).
  • NOAA satellites monitored fourteen named storms and 5 tropical depressions over the Atlantic, and sixteen named storms over the Eastern Pacific.
  • There were 224 rescues in 2003 thanks to the international Cospas-Sarsat program, which uses NOAA satellites and Russian satellites to detect and locate emergency signals from beacons carried by vessels, aircraft, and outdoor adventurers in distress.
  • An important new capability for the program are Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) carried by outdoor adventurers. PLBs can pinpoint the location of a person in distress. The beacons were approved for use throughout the United States in July 2003.

NOAA Research, the primary research and development organization within NOAA, studies the Earth system from the deep ocean to the sun. Accomplishments in 2003 include:

  • NOAA is leading or supporting the development of nineteen of the twenty-one Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) synthesis and assessment products over the next 4 years. Further, NOAA Research scientists are contributing to products ranging from the study of carbon cycle dynamics and greenhouse gas emissions to projections of future climate change, along with the development of decision support tools to help decision-makers.
  • In the autumn of 2003, NOAA researchers helped to forecast activity and capture images of solar storms of record-breaking magnitude. Using NOAA's GOES-12 satellite’s Solar X-ray Imager (SXI), they captured images of some of the largest solar flare activity on record.
  • NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) improved the regional accuracy of products used by National Weather Service forecasters. Improvements have also been made in the WSR-88D weather radar - Warning Decision Support System (WDSS-II) through enhanced WSR-88D severe weather detection and prediction algorithms and display capabilities provided to NWS Forecasters.
  • The deployment of the 1,000th Argo float, a world-wide ocean observation system, that monitors temperature and salinity. The data can be used for operational forecasts as well as by the scientific community contributing to our understanding of the role of oceans in climate.

NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations operates a wide variety of specialized aircraft and ships to complete NOAA's environmental and scientific mission. Key accomplishments include:

  • Four retrofitted vessels joined the NOAA fleet in 2003 replacing vessels that were originally placed in service during the early 1960s. The introduction of these vessels has reduced the average age of the NOAA fleet from 33.6 years to 28.2 years, a decrease of 5.4 years.
  • NOAA’s Gulfstream IV (G-IV), a high altitude jet, was utilized for analysis of a hurricane’s inner core for the first time. Joining NOAA’s WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft, and the U.S. Air Force Reserve WC-130 aircraft, the G-IV provided data during Hurricane Fabian.
  • The ability to accurately measuring hurricane force winds at sea surface has been answered by the development of a next generation airborne Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR). The SFMR was successfully tested onboard NOAA’s WP-3D aircraft.

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.

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