Surveying the approaches to the Chesapeake Bay

Thomas Jefferson at anchor in Lynnhaven anchorage
By Ensign Gabriella McGann

After a busy winter in port, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson started the 2021 field season in familiar waters, returning to survey the approaches of the Chesapeake Bay. Towards the end of the 2020 field season, the crew of the Thomas Jefferson spent their first 45-day “COVID-19 bubble” on this project.  A bubble is formed when crew quarantine and test for COVID-19 prior to crewing the ship, staying isolated onboard until the end of the 45-day period. This protocol is part of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) COVID-19 mitigation strategy. In April and May of 2021 Thomas Jefferson spent an additional 28 days surveying an area approximately 40 nautical miles east of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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Remembering Rear Admiral Richard T. Brennan

NOAA Ship Rude
Captain Brennan portrait

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Richard “Rick” Brennan, Director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. Rick passed away the evening of Thursday, May 13, 2021. A loyal and deeply empathetic leader, Rick served the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps and nautical charting community for nearly three decades. Rick will be remembered for his passion for NOAA’s mission, as a role model for countless employees, a talented and knowledgeable hydrographer, and a man dedicated to family and friendship.

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Coast Survey to shut down the Raster Navigational Chart Tile Service and other related services

NOAA will shut down its Raster Navigational Chart (RNC) Tile Service and the online RNC Viewer on October 1, 2021. The NOAA Seamless Raster Navigational Chart Services will be shut down on January 1, 2022. This is part of a larger NOAA program to end production and maintenance of all NOAA traditional paper and raster nautical charts that was announced in the Federal Register in November 2019.

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NOAA’s Precision Marine Navigation data service receives first major update

The Precision Marine Navigation (PMN) program has completed the first update of its prototype navigation data service – the PMN data processing and dissemination system and PMN Data Gateway viewer. The data processing and dissemination system provides surface current forecast guidance from NOAA’s forecast systems, in a prototype marine navigation data format. The viewer allows users to visualize the predictions and discover where they are. Both the system and the viewer were updated to include data from the recently upgraded Northern Gulf of Mexico Operational Forecast System (NGOFS2).

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Surveying in the Strait of Juan de Fuca during a global pandemic

By Ensign Jessie Spruill and Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician Simon Swart, NOAA Ship Fairweather

Last Thanksgiving, the crew of NOAA Ship Fairweather were busy surveying in one of the country’s busiest waterways. A global maritime entryway to the Pacific Northwest, the Strait of Juan de Fuca sees over 8,000 transits of deep-draft container ships, cargo and chemical carriers, oil tankers, and barges coming to and from Puget Sound and Canada. In addition to industrial shipping, the Strait of Juan de Fuca also supports over 200,000 transits of recreational vessels and Washington State Ferries. Located north of the Olympic Peninsula, the Strait forms the northwestern most border between the contiguous U.S. and Canada. On the American side, the region is home to eight million people including 50 First Nation communities with centuries old cultural ties to traditional fishing.

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The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping announces progress report on mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters

The Interagency Working Group on Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IWG-OCM) released the second annual report on the progress made in mapping U.S. ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes waters. The depth, shape, and composition of the seafloor are foundational data elements that we need to understand in order to explore, sustainably develop, conserve, and manage our coastal and offshore ocean resources. The 2020 National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone and the global Seabed 2030 initiative make comprehensive ocean mapping a priority for the coming decade. The Unmapped U.S. Waters report tracks progress toward these important goals.

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NOAA releases new visualization resources: Precision Navigation Data Gateway and Data Dashboard

NOAA’s Precision Marine Navigation (PMN) program released two new visualization resources. The first is a beta version Precision Marine Navigation Data Gateway map viewer allowing users to explore NOAA’s S-100 data services. Currently, the Data Gateway presents prototype surface current forecast guidance, but new layers will be added as they are developed. NOAA welcomes feedback on the beta version of the Data Gateway. Please submit all comments to marinenav.team@noaa.gov by March 1, 2021.

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New hydrographic surveying matching fund announced

Update (2/19/21) – Notes and slides from the January 28, 2021, webinar on the NOAA Coast Survey Matching Fund Opportunity are now available.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey recently announced a new pilot program for a Hydrographic Surveying Matching Fund opportunity through a Federal Register Notice. The purpose of this notice is to encourage non-federal entities to partner with NOAA on jointly-funded hydrographic surveying, mapping, and related activities of mutual interest. The pilot program relates directly to Coast Survey’s Ocean Mapping Plan and a goal to expand U.S. EEZ mapping by also expanding use of Coast Survey’s hydrographic services contract vehicle.

The concept behind the pilot is that NOAA and partner(s) will match funds using a memorandum of agreement for NOAA to receive the funds.  Coast Survey will rely on its existing contract arrangements to conduct the actual surveying and mapping activities. We expect this unique fund matching opportunity to expand our collaborative partnerships and mapping efforts while also serving to increase funds available for NOAA hydrographic contracts. Further details may be obtained in the federal register notice, but we encourage any additional questions to be sent to iwgocm.staff@noaa.gov for follow-up. 

Izzy Kratchman, hydrographic surveyor for eTrac, leads acquisition efforts on R/V Inverness while surveying in Barry Arm.
In May of 2020, local Alaska geologists identified a steep, unstable slope that has the potential to become a tsunami-generating landslide in Barry Arm, a glacial fjord 60 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska. With documented cases of tsunami-generating landslides in Alaska including Lituya Bay in 1958 and Taan Fjord in 2015, this new hazard immediately caught the attention of state and federal partners who quickly joined forces to quantify the risk to those living and boating in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, specifically the communities of Whittier, Valdez, Cordova, Tatitlek, and Chenega.  NOAA Coast Survey worked with funding partner U.S. Geological Survey to contract for data acquisition to support the state and other data users with timely information on the condition of the slope underwater. Pictured: Izzy Kratchman, hydrographic surveyor for eTrac, leads acquisition efforts on R/V Inverness while surveying in Barry Arm. Credit: eTrac

Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping (IOCM) is the practice of planning, acquiring, integrating, and sharing ocean and coastal data and related products so that people who need the data can find it and use it easily: Map Once, Use Many Times.  Coast Survey is committed to IOCM principles, coordinating and collaborating with NOAA and external partners on mapping wherever it can.

Introducing the Inland-Coastal Flooding Operational Guidance System (ICOGS)

Aerial imagery of inland-coastal flooding during Hurricane Harvey, 2017 in Houston, Texas.

Where the river meets the sea can be both a turbulent and vulnerable space, particularly during strong storms when heavy precipitation and storm surge intersect. This intersection is known as “compound inland-coastal flooding,” and until now, had not been carefully studied and implemented in forecasting centers for public guidance due to its inherent complexity. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science recently developed the Inland-Coastal Flooding Operational Guidance System (ICOGS), the world’s first three-dimensional integrated compound inland-coastal flooding guidance system.

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