Ocean Observing to Better Predict, and Mitigate the Effects of, Coastal Hazards
GCOOS Product Examples
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Hurricane Katrina

The Beauty of a Hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico

The overall goal of 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 Coastal Hazards focus is to predict and mitigate the effects of coastal hazards. The Gulf Coast is particularly vulnerable to two coastal hazards: 1) storms and, 2) sea-level rise coupled with land subsidence. The Gulf Coast has been devastated by several large and extremely expensive storms in the recent past, including: Hurricane Camille (1969), Hurricane Andrew (1992), the Superstorm (1993), Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Rita (2005), the one-two punch of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike (2008), and Hurricane Isaac (2012) (Figure 1). In addition to tragic losses of life, Hurricane Katrina was the costliest U.S. hurricane in history, with insured losses of $46.6 billion (Insurance Information Institute, 2012). Six of the top 11 coastal counties hit by hurricanes from 1960-2008 were on the Gulf Coast (U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, 2008). The solution to mitigating the effects of such storm events, and processes such as sea-level rise is to create more resilient communities, with easy access to current, reliable information. GCOOS plays an important role in collecting this data and developing products that help to plan for and respond to hazards within the coastal environment.

Needs related to Predicting, and Mitigating the Effects of, Coastal Hazards include, for example:

  • Improving hurricane intensity and other storm estimates and tracking for improved evacuation warnings;
  • Storm surge, inundation flooding, and runoff information and mapping for the population living or visiting at the coast;
  • Planning for roads and urban development along the coast as sea level rises and land subsides;
  • Understanding rip currents, surf-zone dynamics, and along-shore currents;
  • Monitoring shoreline change; and
  • Predicting, and mitigating against, coastal hazards.

Ocean Observing to Better Predict, and Mitigate the Effects of, Coastal Hazards

Katrina devistation

Destruction aftermath of a hurricane (Katrina) in Biloxi, MS

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

  • Bathymetry and topography in the coastal zone;
  • Accurate location of shorelines and boundaries of navigable waterways;
  • River discharge;
  • Precipitation;
  • Surface waves, surface currents, sea level, and winds;
  • Weather forecasts (particularly storm track and intensity and precipitation), storm surge, river levels, inundation, flooding;
  • Updated flood plain maps, post-storm forensic studies; wave runup; and
  • Rip currents.

GCOOS is helping to provide these observations and data products.

GCOOS Product Examples

The following listing includes examples of GCOOS products related to Coastal Hazards. Most GCOOS products include mobile map versions.

  Hurricane Tracker Map – interactive map on hurricanes and other storm events.
  Shoreline Data – shoreline data from three different programs: Global Self-consistent Hierarchical High-Resolution Shoreline, NOAA, and USGS
  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.
  Model Forecasts – for forecast images and animations on weather, waves-currents-surge, sea surface temperature and more.
  Satellite Data Images – for images of sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, water vapor, visible, low cloud (lower atmospheric) conditions, and more.
  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
  Hurricanes and Observing Systems Information Sheet – information on Hurricane Preparedness on the Gulf Coast.
  GCOOS Information Sheet: A Tale of Two Industries…and Hurricanes

Other Product Examples

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