NATIONAL DATA BUOY CENTER BUSY WITH GROWING ROLE
13, 2002 — NOAA’s National
Data Buoy Center, with headquarters at the John
C. Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi, is the agency’s
focal point for the nation’s automated marine systems operation
and development. NDBC, which was established
in 1970 when NOAA was created, is a part of the NOAA
National Weather Service.
basic mission is to operate and maintain floating moored buoys and
stationary platforms in support of NOAA’s marine warning and forecast
program. However, several other U.S. agencies, such as the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, support
NDBC stations for special monitoring programs under memoranda of agreement.
Even some state and private groups provide funding for a few stations.
NDBC’s network includes approximately 75
buoys and 60 fixed platforms in the Coastal-Marine Automated Network
stations are located
in the coastal zone and open ocean from the Bering Sea to the tropical
Pacific eastward to the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico and
Great Lakes. NDBC’s user-friendly
Web page shows the extent of NDBC’s network and station pictures.
Most importantly, the page provides online marine observations less than
30 minutes old and up to 30 years of archived data for use by mariners
NDBC’s most important partner in getting the job done is the U.S.
Coast Guard, whose ships often provide transportation to replace or repair
NDBC stations. Effective cooperation and sound engineering have permitted
NDBC to perform impressively since spring 2002. Some 92.5 percent of all
possible moored buoy data were delivered in real-time after automated
quality control; and C-MAN stations delivered an impressive 97.4 percent.
In addition, NDBC manages the NWS Voluntary
Observing Ship (VOS) Program, which obtains weather observations from
ships underway. Some 900 vessels are members of the NWS VOS program.
Under the leadership of Paul
F. Moersdorf, who became director in February 2000, NDBC is increasing
its role in NOAA activities in the world’s oceans. “When I
arrived at NDBC, I emphasized to the employees that the ‘N’
in NDBC says ‘National,’” Moersdorf said. “There’s
too much talent here to not be a resource to all of NOAA and, for that
matter, anyone wanting to monitor and understand the marine environment.”
As a result, NDBC’s new strategic plan reflects its increased emphasis
on ocean monitoring, in addition to its existing atmospheric mission.
Moersdorf’s arrival coincided closely with important changes in
NOAA. NOAA’s NWS reorganized and created the Office
of Climate, Water and Weather Services. Better climate services would
be difficult to achieve without better ocean monitoring. Soon after, Moersdorf
and Eddie Bernard, director of the NOAA
Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, began a dialogue and initiated
a two-year transition of operation of PMEL’s
Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis array to NDBC. DART
is a buoy-based warning network that identifies subtle pressure signals
speeding across the open Pacific that can grow into large, life-threatening
waves called tsunamis
in shallow coastal waters.
2002, when Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.)
was appointed new undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere
and NOAA administrator, he established a NOAA Program Review Team (PRT),
which recommended sweeping changes in the agency, including many that
applied to NOAA’s
observing systems. As a result, NDBC and PMEL have drafted a multi-year
plan to transfer the operation of PMEL’s portion of the Tropical
Atmosphere Ocean array to NDBC. TAO includes 59 moored buoy systems
across the equatorial Pacific and is part of the world renowned TAO/TRITON
array that is the primary source of information for monitoring the El
Niño/La Niña phenomena. El Niño/La Niña
have significant effects on climate variability and seasonal-scale weather
around the world. PMEL’s award-winning
Web site provides details on TAO/TRITON and other research programs.
The final decision on whether the transfer will occur will be made early
In June, NDBC began to receive, process, quality control and distribute
observations from non-NDBC stations for the first time. While regional
marine observing systems have been providing useful data on individual
Web sites for several years, the data were not provided in a consistent
format for centralized processing and distribution for use in NOAA operations.
A software “kit” developed by NDBC has been distributed to
several regional operators and, with relatively minor assistance from
NDBC, they are able to use the kit to convert their observations into
standard data formats that can be entered into computer models to produce
better short-range analyses and forecasts. The first successful application
was with Georgia’s Skidaway
Institute of Oceanography, followed by the Gulf
of Maine Ocean Observing System and the University of South Florida’s
Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction
System. NDBC’s goal is to double the number of marine observations
available to NWS from these sources by the end of 2003 at no additional
cost to NOAA.
Late September through October 2002 was even more eventful than usual
at NDBC. Within one week, Tropical
Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili
came ashore less than 80 miles away from NDBC’s facilities forcing
a shut-down of SSC to all but essential personnel. Key NDBC personnel
came to work to make sure observations kept flowing. Huge public interest
led to record-breaking volume on NDBC’s Web page that exceeded 1.1
million hits in a single day — and nearly three million between
Oct. 1-3, 2002. NDBC’s information systems team made adjustments
to handle the huge volume of Web traffic. Lili’s eye wall passed
directly over an NDBC buoy in the central Gulf of Mexico (station
number 42001) producing NDBC records: for the highest average wind
speed of 113 mph and wicked wind gusts to 149 mph.
During mid-October, NDBC representatives played major roles in the annual
meeting of the eighteenth session of the World Meteorological Organization/International
Oceanographic Commission (WMO/IOC) Data
Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP). The DBCP is composed of approximately
two dozen operators of ocean monitoring systems — such as moored
buoys, and floats, which provide sub-surface
temperature and salinity profiles. The WMO/IOC DBCP fosters international
cooperation and information exchange in order to advance scientific and
operational goals. NDBC personnel led the scientific and technical workshop
and provided a briefing to the DBCP members concerning possible changes
in NOAA that are of great interest.
Finally, NDBC was a key player in the organization of the annual Marine
Technology Society/Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers OCEANS
Conference held in nearby Biloxi, Miss. OCEANS drew approximately
2,100 participants, many of them scientists and engineers interested in
all aspects of ocean activities. An NDBC employee chaired the technical
sessions that included approximately 440 presentations, while many other
employees led technical sessions, presented papers, and manned the NDBC
display. Many OCEANS participants took the opportunity to arrange visits
to NDBC, including visitors from Japan and the Netherlands.
Vice Admiral Lautenbacher attended part of OCEANS and led the plenary
session on Homeland Security. He then visited NDBC and arranged an all-hands
meeting for NOAA personnel and managers of contracts at SSC. After a brief
tour of NDBC’s buoy production facility, Vice Admiral Lautenbacher
gave an animated, up beat assessment of NOAA’s new direction. He
spent several minutes after his briefing talking one-on-one to NOAA employees.
His visit ended with a tour of the NESDIS’s National
Coastal Data Development Center, also located at SSC.
employees are optimistic for the future. Operational ocean monitoring
presents great technical challenges, but the benefits to society are great.
“This is a great time to be part of NOAA,” Moersdorf said.
National Data Buoy Center
National Weather Service
NOAA Voluntary Observing
Ship (VOS) Program
F. Moersdorf (NDBC director)
Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services
Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis array
Tsunamis Theme Page
Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) Array
E l Niño/La Niña Page
Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
MADE LANDFALL AS A CATEGORY TWO HURRICANE ON THE WESTERN EDGE OF VERMILLION
BAY, THE FIRST HURRICANE TO MAKE LANDFALL IN THE UNITED STATES SINCE IRENE
ADMINISTRATOR PROMOTES ROLE OF GLOBAL OBSERVATIONS TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
AT WSSD; CALLS FOR MORE INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION Global Observing System
Hits Milestone with 500th Argo Float Deployment
National Coastal Data Development Center
WEATHER DATA BUOYS ADD REAL-TIME FORECAST MUSCLE IN ALASKA
Data Buoy Center Gets New Director
WEATHER STATION ON LAKE ST. CLAIR LIGHTHOUSE GIVES FORECASTERS, MARINERS
Weather Buoy Fills Crucial Data Gap Off Florida Coast
Worthy - NDBC Publication
Romano, NOAA National Weather Service,