GCOOS Spring Meeting Includes Hurricane Update, Board Election Results
The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) recently hosted its annual Spring Meeting online, providing updates to members and supporters about the ocean observing system focused on the Gulf of Mexico.

GCOOS is the Gulf of Mexico regional component of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the only certified system dedicated solely to the Gulf of Mexico. The organization’s mission is to provide timely, reliable, accurate and on-demand information on the open ocean and coastal ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico to ensure a healthy, clean, productive ocean and resilient coastal zone.
Watch the recorded GCOOS Spring Meeting 2021 on the GCOOS
During the meeting, GCOOS Board Chair Joe Swaykos announced the results of the annual Board Elections. Newly elected or re-elected members, who will take their seats in the fall, are:

  • Private Sector Representatives:  Alyssa Dausman, Vice President for Science of The Water Institute of the Gulf and Bill Lingsch, Following Seas, LLC.
  • Government Sector: Dr. Katherine Hubbard, Research Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Research Institute
  • Academic Sector: Dr. Lynn. K. (Nick) Shay, Associate Dean and Professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Director of the Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory
  • Outreach and Education Sector: Renee Collini, Coordinator for the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Cooperative

The meeting also included presentations by Carl Gouldman, Director of the U.S. IOOS Program Office, Josie Quintrell, Executive Director of the IOOS Association, and Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, GCOOS Executive Director, and an overview of the 2020 hurricane season, along with a preview of plans for glider deployment during the 2021 season by Bill Lingsch, U.S. Glider User Group Coordinator, and GCOOS Oceanographer Dr. Kerri Whilden.

Gliders, also known as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), are underwater robots that carry instrument packages that gather data on water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and other parameters, depending on research needs.
Of particular interest during hurricane season — which occurs from June 1 through Nov. 30 in the Atlantic region — is information on water temperature, which the gliders gather throughout the water column.

Each hurricane season, GCOOS works with teams in Florida, Mississippi and Texas to track and share data from a “glider picket line” in the Gulf. Part of the National Hurricane Glider Program, the picket line includes a series of gliders monitoring the ocean in the Gulf, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic that are programmed to collect information on ocean parameters from areas where tropical storms and hurricanes typically form or strengthen.

“The gliders aren’t there to chase storms, though having one pass over is a bonus for data collection,” said Whilden. “Instead, we’re focused on collecting in-situ data within ocean features ahead of storms so that information can be assimilated into forecast models to predict the path and intensity of storms.” 

Making hurricane predictions is all about having data — and being able to access accurate information quickly and easily. GCOOS hosts a dashboard that tracks gliders piloted by the U.S. Navy, the University of South Florida, the University of Southern Mississippi, Texas A&M University’s Geochemical and Environmental Research Group, and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

Funds for these efforts are provided by the U.S. IOOS program and Shell Renewables and Energy Solutions.

“As we move into hurricane season, it’s important that we work together to gather as much data as we can through a coordinated system,” said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, GCOOS Executive Director. “It’s great to see public-private partnerships making this happen.”

“After the record-breaking 2020 hurricane season, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief but the work never stopped,” Whilden said. “In the off-season we've been assessing damage, making repairs, servicing equipment, and calibrating sensors so that the gliders are fully functional ahead of the 2021 season.”

For the 2021 hurricane season, NOAA is predicting a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms with winds 39 mph or higher for 2021. Six to 10 could become hurricanes (with winds 74 mph or greater), including three to five storms rated category 3 or higher with wind speeds of 111 mph or greater.