Ocean Observing to Improve Public Health and Safety
GCOOS Product Examples
Other Product Examples


The overall goal of the GCOOS is to empower people, communities and businesses to improve decision-making about our lives, work, and play along the Nation’s Gulf Coast. The aim of the Public Health and Safety focus is to help protect public health and enhance safety. Oil spills, harmful algal blooms, dangerous currents and weather, and coastal land loss are examples of threats to public health and safety along the Gulf Coast. In addition to tragic losses of life and the health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 cost approximately $4.5 billion in criminal penalties alone, with additional funds to the Natural Resources Damage Assessment, civil claims, and more. In Texas, a single harmful algal bloom event in 2000 cost the oyster industry $10 million in lost revenue due to closure from harvest to protect public health (NOAA, 2010b). GCOOS plays an important role in protecting public health and safety by providing easy access to sound, integrated data and specialized products.

Figure 1. Sunlight on Oil Slick off the Mississippi Delta on May 24, 2010 (left) and Closed Shellfish Harvesting Sign (right). Credit: NASA/Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team and National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

Needs related to Public Health and Safety include, for example:

  • Improved Search & Rescue efforts to find lost boaters in rough seas;
  • Prediction and monitoring of rip currents to help ensure safe surfing and boating (Surf’s up? Waves too small for my board? Too big for my boat?);
  • Sea level and land subsidence data to help plan roads and urban development along the coast;
  • Prediction, early detection and public warnings of toxic aerosols from harmful algal blooms (HABs) for beach goers, as well as shellfish harvesters and consumers; and
  • HAB event tracking and monitoring to facilitate prompt reopening of shellfish beds when danger from HAB pathogens or “red tide” ends.

Ocean Observing to Improve Public Health and Safety

To help meet these needs, ocean observations are needed on:

  • Near-shore algal concentrations;
  • Air and sea surface temperatures;
  • Surface waves, currents, and winds;
  • Satellite-derived distributions of sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentrations, and sea surface height;
  • Climatologies to determine impacts of climate variability on health and safety,
  • Discharge of water and pollutants from rivers;
  • Point-source and non-point-source outflow of pollutants; and
  • Spills of petroleum and other pollutants;

GCOOS is helping to provide these observations and data products.

GCOOS Product Examples

The following listing includes examples of GCOOS products related to Public Health and Safety. Most GCOOS products include mobile map versions.

  GCOOS Data Portal – for current conditions on in situ (air temperature, air pressure, relative humidity, water temperature, salinity, winds, dissolved oxygen, solar radiation, water level) and remotely sensed (currents) data.
  Recent Observations – for recent observations at stations; images on surface conditions for sea surface pressure, sea surface temperature, air temperature, and winds at 10 m depth and above; and images of sub-surface currents for 2-600 m depth.
  Satellite Data Images – for images of sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, water vapor, visible, low cloud (lower atmospheric) conditions, and more.
  Model Forecasts – for forecast images and animations on weather, waves-currents-surge, sea surface temperature and more.
  GCOOS Glider Maps – For interactive maps showing glider tracks and data in the Gulf of Mexico
  Oil Spill Resources – page summarizing oil spill resources at GCOOS and externally, with current conditions, forecasts, and observations
  Real-Time High Frequency Radar Data in the Northeastern Gulf – for real-time data on surface currents in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico
  Real-Time High Frequency Radar Data in the Eastern Gulf – for real-time data on surface currents in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
  River Discharge Data Set – data from 55 rivers that discharge into the Gulf of Mexico
  Oil and Gas Platforms – for an interactive map of oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. This product requires the Silverlight Plug-in.
  Interactive Profiling Glider Map – for an interactive map of USF and Mote Marine Laboratory’s profiling glider project for HABs.
  Beach Quality Information Sheet – fact sheet about beach quality
  The Phytoplankton Time Series at Port Aransas, part of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MANEER) program – images of phytoplankton species taken from an Imagine FlowCytobot along with chlorophyll fluorescence data.
  Integrated Water Quality Network – Coming soon! This in-development product will be an interactive map with integrated water quality monitoring data, from rivers-to-oceans, for the U.S. Gulf Coast States. A pilot project is currently underway in Southwest Florida with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF). SCCF’s water quality data is currently available through the GCOOS Data Portal. GCOOS water quality experts are also initiating similar efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
  Harmful Algal Bloom Integrated Observing System (HABIOS) – Coming soon! This in-development product will be an interactive map with integrated station and AUV data on harmful algal blooms along the Gulf coast and Continental Shelf. A plan is available at

Other Product Examples

NOAA National Hurricane Center
NOAA Software and Map Tools from the Office of Restoration and Response
NOAA Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System
NOAA Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas
NOAA CDC Data sets – including bathymetric, LIDAR, benthic habitats and more

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NOAA. 2010b. National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s Economic Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).