Coastal Marine Modeling
NOAA's Office of Coast Survey develops computer models
that forecast oceanic variables (sea level, currents,
temperature, salinity, etc.) in U.S. coastal regions. These models can be grouped into three
categories: tidal models, storm surge models, and operational forecast systems.
Tidal models are necessary for determining a reference sea level, the main application of
which is nautical charting.
Storm surge models predict events of extreme sea level rise and inundation of coastal
areas in response to strong winds and low
atmospheric pressure conditions.
Operational forecast systems (OFS) provide information on tidal and non-tidal sea level
variations, as well as currents,
temperature, and salinity, in three dimensions.
These variables can provide guidance to ship operators for route planning (i.e. avoiding strong
opposing currents to save fuel) and route
monitoring (safe and efficient coastal navigation, i.e. avoiding low water levels and grounding
This navigation guidance is part of the
initiative, which aims to integrate important data streams into single-dissemination, so
that mariners can make decisions driven by data.
calls for integrated prediction of river, ocean, and ice dynamics. This requires an investment in
research and collaboration with scientists
across the board, both at NOAA
and academic partners, in order to reach the goals of accurate
forecasting within U.S. marine and riverine
Commercial and recreational fishermen use oceanic variables provided by forecasting systems,
such as surface currents, locations of
temperature fronts and river plumes, near-bottom conditions (temperature, oxygen, etc.), and the
depth of the oceanic thermocline, to
increase safety and lower operational costs when planning fishing trips.
The U.S. Coast Guard, along with agencies dealing with environmental hazard response, can
use information on surface currents to
assist search-and-rescue operations and mitigate the impacts of accidents such as oil spills.
In the future, accurate forecasts of ocean dynamics will become a base for
oceanic ecological forecasting
, predicting impacts of harmful algae blooms and pathogens, hypoxic conditions, and ocean
acidification on U.S. coastal populations.