See how GCOOS Members are helping to monitor Galveston Oil Spill

On March 22, 2014, the bulk carrier Summer Wind collided with a barge owned by Kirby Inland Marine that was carrying approximately 950,000 gallons of fuel oil.  Enroute from Texas City to Bolivar, TX, the ship caused a breach in the barge that resulted in an estimated 170,000 gallons of fuel being dumped into the Houston shipping channel in Galveston Bay, bringing port traffic to a near-standstill. As part of the monitoring effort to mitigate the spill,the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) at Texas A&M University, a GCOOS member and data provider, deployed a Responder buoy, which is part of the Texas Automated Buoy System (TABS) fleet funded by the Texas General Land Office (TGLO). TABS Responder buoys are specially designed to track currents, waves, and meteorological information and are easily deployed in an emergency, requiring no lifting equipment or complicated set-up.

The data being collected are helping state officials and managers track the movement of the spilled oil in Galveston Bay and as it moves out onto the Texas shelf.  Data are also being assimilated into coastal circulation numerical models operated by Texas A&M University to monitor currents and winds on the Texas shelf in near real-time, hindcast, and forecast modes.

The TABS Responder buoy was deployed on March 24, near the TABS B buoy and will collect data for the next two to three weeks.  The data are currently available on the GERG TABS website ( by clicking TABS B buoy on the map or by clicking here.

To read more about the Houston Ship Channel oil spill, click here.

To learn more about the TABS program, which was highlighted earlier this month as part of the GCOOS Data Provider series in the GCOOS Newsletter and on the website, click here.

To read more about the TABS Responder buoy design and future efforts, click here.

California Sea Grant Fellow: Laura Lilly

In 2012 a memorandum of understanding was signed by the West Coast OOSes and the WCGA to collaborate on ocean health issues like marine debris and ocean acidification.  An outcome of this agreement resulted in a one-year West Coast Oceanographic Data Integration Fellowship that began November 2013. Laura Lilly, who currently sits at the SCCOOS program office at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, will focus on the identification of priority regional management questions and information needs. She will work with state ocean acidification science panels and the WCGA Marine Debris Action Coordination team to understand the oceanographic data needs and develop products tailored to meet those needs. The data products will be made available through the West Coast OOS sites, WCGA, and state data portals for wide dissemination. The fellowship was administered by California Sea Grant. If you wish to learn more or contribute your data to the Portal, please contact Todd Hallenbeck (

Read her first blog post titled, "Chasing Waves and Navigating West Coast Ocean Policy."

Happy Holidays from the IOOS Association!

We appreciate working with all of you and wish you a happy, healthy, joyous holiday season.  Thank you for all you do on behalf of the ocean!

IOOS Releases Red Tide Video

Marine and fresh waters teem with algae, much of it microscopic and harmless, which forms the base for our complex aquatic food webs. Some algae, though, produce potent toxins that can cause die-offs of marine animals like manatees and sicken or even kill us when we eat contaminated seafood or use tainted water. Other non-toxic algae produce high biomass that reduces water quality and damages critical marine habitat. Harmful algal blooms now impact every coastal region.  IOOS has released a video about these effects and what they are doing to help.

NOAA maintains an operational HAB forecasting system to help states and industry manage risks from harmful algal blooms that now impact every coastal region. Real-time environmental data from IOOS has also proven critical for assessing HAB threats. In the Puget Sound, hourly ocean temperature and current data have helped scientists identify conditions that can trigger toxic algae outbreaks and make shellfish unsafe to eat supporting an alert to Puget Sound oyster growers. Integrating routine HAB cell and toxin abundance data into IOOS regional networks will enhance these alerts and our ability to predict movement of HAB events so decision makers can take targeted action, such as closing a beach to avoid illnesses caused by blooms of harmful algae.

IOOS Fall Meeting a Success!

The agenda covered a wide range of priority topics including the four “Joint Planning” topics for FY14 (DMAC, modeling, observing, communications), certification, and common products. The agenda also included a collaborative discussion with NOAA Fisheries convened at the new Southwest Fisheries Science Center facility across the street and hosted by Center Director Cisco Werner. Attendees also toured the SWFSC facilities, the Scripps Glider Lab, the Coastal Data Information Program which specializes in wave measurement, and the Scripps Birch Aquarium to review education and outreach ideas and kiosks. The meeting also included discussions with NOS AA Holly Bamford, and new Scripps Director Margaret Leinen. A meeting summary is in progress.

CaRA: Successful Conclusion of Summer Internship

Undergraduate students Estefanía Quiñones (UPRM, Physics Department), Edward Rivera (UPRM, Mechanical Engineering Department) and Luis Pomales (UPRH, Physics & Electronics Department) successfully concluded their CaRA 2013 summer internship during which they worked on projects including rip currents numerical modeling, ROMS ocean currents simulations, and analysis of surface currents using CODAR.  Dr. Stefano Leonardi, Dr. Miguel Canals and Prof. Julio Morell undertook the supervision of the student projects. These students have now been recruited by CariCOOS to continue working on specific topics relevant to the observing system mission.

Students gained hands-on experience in diverse aspects of implementation, operation and development of coastal ocean observing systems including stakeholder engagement, applied research, data analysis, and product development.  "CariCOOS's Summer Internship gave me the opportunity to interact with the fields of oceanography and fluid mechanics. And since next year I will start applying for graduate school, I believe this summer internship program helped me focus my future career goals. But most important, it provided me the opportunity to become part of a group of excellent professionals that share with me their knowledge and their interest in discovery." (Estefania Quiñones, Physics Department, University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.)

SCCOOS: Cardiff Beach Erosion and Inundation Project

Coastal inundation on the U.S. west coast is often caused by the co-occurrence of high tides and energetic ocean waves. During storms, wave runup can reach several meters above tide level. Existing simple inundation models yield qualitative general information but not the information most valuable for issuing site-specific warnings for highway closures and sand-bagging. Quantitative inundation observations are critically needed to improve model accuracy. With rising sea levels and El Niño winters, it is crucial that a West Coast inundation model be developed for future safety and protection of coastal communities.

The goal of the Cardiff Beach Erosion and Inundation Project is to develop field-validated, site-specific inundation models for use in providing real-time warnings of wave and tide-induced coastal inundation. Groups interested in inundation information include lifeguards, the National Weather Service and Emergency Alert Network, recreational beachgoers, US Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Transportation, California Coastal Commission, as well as regional city and county governments. Real-time users (e.g. highway departments) have indicated a willingness to work cooperatively to improve the warnings by providing information on when highways flood during storm events.

IOOS Partners Testify Before House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Transportation

On July 31, Lisa Hazard from Scripps and SCCOOS and Toby Garfield from San Francisco State University and CeNCOOS testified at a hearing “How to Improve Efficiency, Safety and Security of Maritime Transportation:  Better Use and Integration of Maritime Domain Awareness.   You can watch their testimony here.

SCCOOS: Orange County Sanitation District Diversion

The Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) discharges its treated effluent from a 120-inch ocean outfall that terminates in 200 feet of water, approximately 4.5 miles offshore Newport Beach and Huntington Beach. The discharged plume typically stays well below the ocean surface and away from recreational (water contact) use areas. The District has a secondary, 78-inch outfall located in about 60 feet of water, 1 mile off the coast. From this discharge point, it is expected that the discharged effluent will rise to the water surface and into recreational use areas. OCSD’s 2004 discharge permit allowed discharges through the 78-inch outfall only under emergency conditions. Avoidance of its use has been a key objective of plant construction and maintenance projects and OCSD developed detailed contingency plans for each one. In May 2007, the Southern California Coastal Observing System (SCCOOS) provided requested data and product support during planned ocean outfall repairs as part of a monitoring contingency plan. SCCOOS provided local views of modeled surf zone waves and currents, near real-time meteorological observations, and surface currents for use by OCSD and the Orange County Health Care Agency. Under a new permit, slated to be issued in June 2012, OCSD will be allowed to use the 78-inch outfall for non-emergency plant operations. In September 2012, OCSD will divert flow from the 120-inch outfall to the 78-inch outfall as part of a project to inspect, assess, and rehabilitate the Outfall Land Section and Ocean Outfall Booster Pump Station Piping. OCSD has requested a report from SCCOOS and CeNCOOS synthesizing the results of the diversion’s modeling and monitoring activities and a technical review of those activities and results highlighting successes, failures, and lessons learned.

"There’s no reason to assume that harmful algae dominate the system, and every reason to monitor it,” said University of California researcher Dave Caron.

NERACOOS: Providing Safe Conditions for Pilots to Board Ships

The Penobscot Bay Pilots routinely use NERACOOS buoys as they make decisions when to board ships that they pilot into various ports. In their operations, they primarily look at winds, waves, visibility and currents. These buoys are operated by The University of Maine Physical Oceanography Group.  From Captain David Gelinas, Penobscot River and Bay Pilot: 

The coast of Maine supports mutli-million dollar fishing and tourism industries so when making decisions about bringing a 700 foot tanker full of fuel into port we need the best ocean and weather information possible, which is why we depend on IOOS buoy observations and forecasts to ensure safety and efficiency of these critical operations. I had an interesting job last week, getting on a tanker at Monhegan Island that was coming up from Boston.  While the seas at the pilot boarding area were only 4' when the ship left Boston, your wave prediction page showed them to be 8-11' with a short period by the time the ship would have been there due to an approaching low pressure system.  Sure enough that's what they were, and I cancelled the job for that day well in advance of the vessel's arrival.  The seas eventually reached nearly 20' later that night.  We set up boarding for 1500 the next day, when the prediction showed a more modest 8' sea with a much longer period between waves.  It was still a challenging boarding, but the ability to so accurately predict the seas and establish a schedule greatly contributed to the safety of the job, as well as provided the shipper with a firm idea of when his ship would come into port.  This is just one story that demonstrates your organizations' contribution to safe, efficient port operations in Penobscot Bay.