"Real-time knowledge of the currents, water levels, winds and density of the water can increase the amount of cargo moved through a port and harbor and enable mariners to safely use available channel depths," said Rich Edwing, NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) director. "Even one additional foot of draft can substantially increase the profit of a shipment."
Information from these and other sensing instruments in the Gulf of Mexico are provided in real time and near-real time through the GCOOS Regional Association's free and publicly accessible data portal, online at http://data.gcoos.org/.
"As a region with rapidly growing communities along low-lying coastal areas and an infrastructure that is critical to our nation's energy security, improving and enhancing our coastal observing systems are vital to our nation's interests," said Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, Executive Director of the GCOOS-RA. "More than 14 million people call the Gulf Coast home. The Gulf is also a vital economic driver for the regional and the U.S. economies, providing jobs for 20 million people and generating $234 billion annually.
"Better predictive capabilities for storms and flooding is of utmost importance to protecting lives, commerce and our nation's energy supply."
Enhancing navigation is also important, Kirkpatrick said, when you stop to consider that the Gulf has 14 of the top 20 U.S. ports by tonnage and that in 2012, when Hurricane Isaac forced the closure of a single port, the Port of New Orleans, for four days, it resulted in the estimated loss of more than $400 million and had a ripple effect on the global supply chain.
GCOOS is a nonprofit organization that has a federal charter to develop a network of business leaders, marine scientists, resource managers, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholder groups that combine their data to provide timely information about our oceans -- similar to the information gathered by the National Weather Service to develop weather forecasts. It is one of 11 regional networks collecting data transmitted from satellites, ships, buoys, underwater gliders and other technologies that monitor the earth's oceans and atmospheric conditions.
In the coming months, legislation will be introduced in Congress that re-authorizes the Integrated Coastal Ocean Observation System (ICOOS) Act, the umbrella legislation for the nation's regional associations, including GCOOS.
"The safety and security of our coastal regions is a non-partisan issue and we urge all Gulf Coast residents to tell your legislators how important having a strong coastal observing system is to you and ask that they vote in favor of reauthorization of the ICOOS Act. The time to reauthorize is now, not when a hurricane is threatening the safety of our families and communities," Kirkpatrick said.