NOAA 50th Anniversary
Office of Coast Survey
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

Coastal Oceanographic Forecast Systems

Coastal Oceanographic Forecast Systems (OFS)

Over the past 20 years, Office of Coast Survey has developed, tested, and implemented sophisticated numerical oceanographic forecast modeling systems to provide operational forecast guidance of ocean conditions for coastal waters and the Great Lakes, including many of the major seaports in the U.S. The work on the Coastal Oceanographic Forecast Systems (OFS) is done in collaboration with its partners in National Ocean Service's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services, NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research's Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab, National Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and academia. These numerical forecast modeling systems run on NOAA’s operational supercomputer four times/day to generate hourly predictions of water levels along with layered (3-D) predictions of currents, water temperature and salinity for the next few days. The forecast guidance is used daily by commercial and recreational mariners, U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) operations, weather forecasters, ecological forecasters, and fishermen. Presently, NOS operates and maintains 14 ocean or Great Lakes forecast modeling systems for U.S. waters. The OFS models are based open-source community-supported numerical ocean models including the Princeton Ocean Model (PoM), Finite Volume Coastal Community Model (FVCOM), Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS), and semi-implicit Eulerian Lagrangian finite-element (SELFE).

A new generation of OFS models is now being developed on a regional scale and will also include assimilation of observations in the model. This new generation of OFS is a product of a collaborative with other additional partners in within NOAA (e.g., NESDIS), and regional Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) associations, which assimilates near-real-time sea surface temperature and sea height data from operational weather satellites to improve the estimation of the water body’s initial state (temperature and salinity). As a result, the accuracy of the forecast guidance will also improve. The first data assimilation system that is scheduled to go into operations in early 2021 will be NOS’s West Coast Operational Forecast System (WCOFS) with a geographic coverage area of more than 1,000,000 square nautical miles.

Depiction of 60-hour forecast guidance of surface water temperature and currents.

Depiction of 60-hour forecast guidance of surface water temperature and currents from NOS’ operational Lake Superior Forecast Modeling System (valid at 10:00 a.m. CDT October 7, 2020).

Revised: 6/22/2020