Developing products for “precision navigation”   1 comment

Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are first up

by Capt. Richard Brennan, chief, Coast Survey Development Lab

The increased size of vessels entering U. S. ports, coupled with the diminishing margins that must be navigated with reference to the seafloor, provides NOAA with the opportunity to develop new products to support precision navigation. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are testing grounds for current product development, since developing products for these ports will allow us to examine the value of precision navigation products under actual at-sea conditions. The channel leading to the Port of Long Beach has an authorized depth of 76 feet, allowing drafts of 69 feet. A major concern for this port is high sea swell conditions that can be present when ultra large crude carriers enter port. These large swells can cause vessels to pitch, which results in a significant change in their draft.

As a point of reference, a 1,000-foot vessel pitching just 1 degree will experience a draft increase of over 10 feet. Due to these conditions, the captain of the port has limited vessel drafts to 65 feet. This may sound like no big deal, but it means that ultra-large crude carriers must wait outside of the sea buoy until conditions become favorable for them to enter or they must lighten their load to another vessel in order to reduce their draft. Both of these options are expensive delays, costing a lot of time and money.

ship clearance at 1 degree pitch

A pitch of 1 degree can significantly increase draft.

While the Office of Coast Survey is primarily focused on navigational charts, we are also working with other NOAA programs to bring all NOAA data to the mariner where it’s needed most: the ship’s bridge. We plan to expand partnerships with the commercial chart system industry and mobile app developers so we can deliver a data stream that is unified and intuitive, requiring little intervention from the mariner.

In order for this to work, soundings must be more closely spaced for a higher resolution. Along with that, each measurement must have an associated uncertainty value and some estimate of the geologic composition of the seafloor ‒ that our modern multibeam echo sounders can provide in great detail. Decidedly, the final inland electronic navigational chart product should include half-meter spaced contours and group soundings at a 25-meter radius, keeping the final electronic chart product size under the 5MB size limit. With this, as the navigation community begins to rely on – and demand – higher accuracy data, we will need more periodic surveys.

sounding and contour overlay

Close-up of the final overlay density of 25-meter radius sounding selection and half-meter contour interval

This project presents us with the opportunity to talk to the mariner about the possibilities that various NOAA data holds for navigation. To illustrate these possibilities, we will demonstrate how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A ship master has always intuitively understood the motion characteristics of their vessels, but knowing this intuitively is no longer good enough; we must know them exactly. High-resolution bathymetry is useful but, when paired with both real-time and forecast water levels, we are left with a much stronger decision support tool than either product used independently.

Chart of tidal prediction and actual observation

This chart shows the drastic fluctuation between tidal prediction and actual observation in the Port of Baltimore, February 2015.

These products should not only account for the astronomic factors (tides) affecting water levels, but also the meteorological and hydrological effects. For example, in February 2015, the Port of Baltimore saw a four-and-a-half foot, non-tidal water level variation in 19 hours due to the passage of a strong winter frontal system. In a wide, shallow embayment such as this, it is not uncommon for strong meteorological fronts to drive significant non-tidal water level fluctuations. The mariner must be able to account for these kinds of factors.

The NOAA products under development will encourage industry to lean forward into this new technology, and provide a vehicle to engage the mariner in a discussion about the possibilities of high-resolution data fusion for precision navigation. Whether it is a high-current situation, planning a passage, or laying out the approach to anchorage, the mariner will have all this data at their disposal to assist them with any navigation issues that may surface. With this data, the mariner has the information needed to make the best possible decision.

Coast Survey announces plans for 2015 NOAA survey projects   1 comment

In 2015, NOAA survey ships Thomas Jefferson and Ferdinand R. Hassler are scheduled to survey nearly 1,800 square nautical miles in the U.S. coastal waters of the lower 48 states, collecting data that will update nautical charts for navigation and other uses. In Alaska, NOAA ships Fairweather and Rainier will increase their Arctic operations, planning to acquire 12,000 nautical miles of “trackline” depth measurements of the U.S. Coast Guard’s proposed shipping route. (See this NOAA article.) The ships will also conduct several “full bottom” hydrographic survey projects, acquiring data from over 2,800 square nautical miles in survey areas along the Alaskan coastline.

We are also planning several projects for our contractual private sector survey partners, and those projects will be announced after work orders are finalized.

The Office of Coast Survey will manage the surveys that measure water depths and collect ocean floor data for charting, identifying navigational hazards, informing wind farm decisions, mapping fish habitats, and assisting with coastal resilience. Check the useful story map, 2015 Hydrographic Survey projects, for the survey outlines and more information. Coast Survey will update the map as weather and operational constraints dictate.

2015 survey plan outlines

See the story map for all 2015 in-house projects.

Briefly, this year’s NOAA survey projects include:

1. Gulf of Maine, where chart soundings in heavily trafficked and fished areas are decades old and need updating for navigational safety

2. Buzzards Bay (Massachusetts and Rhode Island), where increased use of deeper-draft double-hull barges – and possible installation of marine transmission cable routes and wind energy development — requires updated soundings

3. Rhode Island Sound, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has identified a wind energy lease area

4. Approaches to Chesapeake (North Carolina), where charts of critical navigational areas need updating for navigation and to assist the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manage windfarm activity.

5. Approaches to Charleston (South Carolina), where updated soundings will provide the correct under-keel clearance information for the expected transit of larger and deeper-draft ships

6. Approaches to Savannah (Georgia), where the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will increase the authorized depth of the harbor from 42 to 47 feet and updated soundings will provide the correct under-keel clearance information for the expected transit of larger and deeper-draft ships

7. Chatham Strait (Alaska), where charts need to be updated for cruise liners, ferries, Coast Guard cutters, Navy vessels, tugs, and barges that use this waterway on a regular basis or when avoiding storms in the Gulf of Alaska

8. Approaches to Kotzebue (Alaska), where deep-draft vessels have their cargo lightered to shore by shallow draft barges

9. Point Hope (Alaska), where shipping traffic is increasing due to receding ice but charted soundings are sparse and date back to the 1960s

10. West Prince of Wales Island (Alaska), where updated charts are needed by smaller vessels that use Televak Narrows as an alternate passage during foul weather

11. Shumagin Islands (Alaska), where Coast Survey needs data to create a new, larger scale, nautical chart

12. Port Clarence (Alaska), where Coast Survey needs data to create a new, larger scale, nautical chart

13. South Arctic Reconnaissance Route, where trackline data will assist consideration of the U.S. Coast Guard’s proposed Bering Strait Port Access Route Study

14. North Coast of Kodiak Island (Alaska), where we need to update charts for Kodiak’s large fishing fleet and increasing levels of passenger vessel traffic

Explore once, use many times   1 comment

This post is adapted from a poster at the U.S. Hydro 2015 conference, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Pilot project shows nautical charting applications using NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer data

By
James J. Miller and Tyanne Faulkes, physical scientists, NOAA Office of Coast Survey, Atlantic Hydrographic Branch
Lindsay McKenna, physical scientist, ERT Inc. contractor with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Mapping is the foundation of ocean exploration and marine spatial planning. In its mission to explore and broaden our knowledge of the oceans, the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer has collected high-resolution multibeam data as an integral part of its operations around the globe. Since 2013, the Office of Coast Survey has collaborated with the Okeanos Explorer during their expeditions, to improve hydrographic acquisition and processing methods and expand multibeam coverage in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. The resulting bathymetry has supported a diverse array of oceanic research and contributed to the protection of ecologically critical habitats in U.S. waters.

A new initiative between the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and Coast Survey has opened the door to further maximizing the data’s usefulness. In alignment with NOAA’s integrated ocean and coastal mapping program’s philosophy of “map once, use many times,” this pilot project will integrate Okeanos Explorer multibeam data from the Gulf of Mexico into NOAA’s nautical chart update pipeline, and will expand in the future to incorporate data from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Pilot Project

Two surveys were identified during the Okeanos Explorer’s 2014 field season for a pilot project.

OE Survey W00286The focus of expedition EX1402L1 (Survey W00286) was to test the vessel’s operational equipment and map the Florida Escarpment west of the Florida Keys.

OE Survey W00285The primary goal of expedition EX1402L2 (Survey W00285) was to map the region southwest of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and provide details to the scientific community about biological habitats in the area.

Office of Coast Survey personnel provided field support and assisted with data analysis and documentation during these expeditions. Although it was not the original intent of these two surveys, Coast Survey assessed the data to determine whether it would improve the nautical charts in the project area. The source diagrams for the affected charts (11340, 11420, 11006, and 11013) showed that the sparsely charted soundings were based on partial coverage surveys dating from pre-1900 to 1939. In contrast, the Okeanos Explorer used a modern multibeam echo sounder (Kongsberg EM302) to acquire data with nearly complete coverage. Further analysis indicated that the Okeanos Explorer soundings were generally shallower than the charted soundings, in some instances by greater than 500 meters.

Once it was demonstrated that the Okeanos Explorer’s multibeam bathymetry would significantly improve the charts, the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch incorporated the data into Coast Survey’s chart update pipeline. Branch personnel have applied uncertainty to the data, created CUBE surfaces, written descriptive reports to document the acquisition and processing methods, and conducted a survey acceptance review to ensure that the data meets the relevant NOAA specifications for nautical charting. Coast Survey is currently compiling the data to update the affected charts.

Remaining Challenges

The various sources of the Okeanos Explorer’s vertical uncertainty need to be better accounted for within the CARIS total propagated uncertainty computation. These include tide uncertainty and sound velocity corrections (expendable bathythermographs).

In addition to the surveys already being evaluated, there is an additional 60,000 square nautical miles of Okeanos Explorer data along the Pacific Coast and Hawaii that can potentially be used for nautical charting.

Beyond the pilot: applying more Okeanos Explorer data to charts

The Atlantic Hydrographic Branch is evaluating Okeanos Explorer data that covers over 62,000 square nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. (The surveyed area is larger than the land area of Kansas!) Coast Survey would like to use the data to update over 30 nautical charts.

Atlantic Hydrographic Branch’s physical scientists will continue to collaborate with the Okeanos Explorer and the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research to provide support, improve data acquisition and processing methods, and transfer data from the ship for chart compilation.

About the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

Commissioned in August 2008, the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is the nation’s only federal vessel dedicated to ocean exploration. With 95% of the world’s oceans left unexplored, the ship’s unique combination of scientific and technological tools positions it to explore new areas of our largely unknown ocean. These explorations will generate scientific questions leading to further scientific inquiries.

Through the Okeanos Explorer Program, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research provides the nation with important capabilities to discover and investigate new ocean areas and phenomena, conduct the basic research required to document discoveries, and seamlessly disseminate data and information-rich products to a multitude of users. The program strives to develop technological solutions and innovative applications to critical problems in undersea exploration and to provide resources for developing, testing, and transitioning solutions to meet these needs.

NOAA hydro officers honored   Leave a comment

Each year, the NOAA Association of Commissioned Officers recognizes NOAA Corps officers for their extraordinary accomplishments and contributions. This year, three of the four awards went to officers supporting Coast Survey’s hydrographic program. Congratulations to the officers honored with Junior Officer of the Year, Engineering, and Science awards. Coast Survey applauds your accomplishments!

Megan Guberski

Lt. Megan Guberski, NOAA

Lieutenant Megan Guberski was awarded the “Junior Officer of the Year” award for her outstanding performance as operations officer on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Lt. Guberski successfully submitted 13 hydrographic projects, ensuring mariners received critical safety of navigation data in a timely manner. Undeterred by challenges outside of her control, she developed a creative staffing and logistics plan to ensure Thomas Jefferson continued its primary data acquisition mission with survey launches even when the ship lost days at sea. This added over 390 acquisition hours, which would have otherwise gone unrealized. Lt. Guberski also made certain that data processing and survey delivery was not delayed due to server shutdown during drydock, by managing the move of the data servers, survey department, and part of the wardroom into Coast Survey’s Atlantic Hydrographic Branch to continue hydrographic data processing. Finally, Lt. Guberski seamlessly stepped into the role of acting executive officer with less than 24 hours notice, managing all aspects of the ship budget, personnel, and logistics in addition to her primary duties.

Lt. Cmdr. Briana Welton

Lt. Cmdr. Briana Welton

Lieutenant Commander Briana Welton was awarded the “Science Award” for her thesis work “A Field Method for Backscatter Calibration Applied to NOAA’s Reson 7125 Multibeam Echo-Sounder.” Seafloor acoustic backscatter is a valuable measurement for characterizing the marine environment and has been used in such diverse fields as geology, habitat mapping, and marine construction. Lt. Cmdr. Welton’s contribution to this field allows a more seamless integration of multi-sensor data sets and improves the utility of the environmental mapping data acquired by NOAA’s fleet.

Lt.j.g. Eric Younkin, NOAA

Lt.j.g. Eric Younkin, NOAA

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Eric Younkin was awarded an “Engineering Award” for his innovative and comprehensive analysis, design, and implementation of shipboard data management infrastructure, including remote processing, data archival, and network optimization. This resulted in government cost savings of over $400K while improving performance and maintaining data integrity.

Job well done!

Celebrating Abe’s birthday! Lincoln’s slave density map is home again in President Lincoln Cottage   Leave a comment

The “slave density map,” created by the men of U.S. Coast Survey in 1861, is one of Coast Survey’s most treasured historical maps. Artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter included it in his painting, “First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln,” because Lincoln consulted it so often in devising his military strategy. According to Carpenter, President Lincoln used the map in his decisions to send his armies to free blacks in some of the highest density areas in order to destabilize Southern order.

Francis Bicknell Carpenter placed the "slave density map" in the lower right corner of his painting of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Francis Bicknell Carpenter placed the “slave density map” in the lower right corner of his painting of the Emancipation Proclamation.

 

President Lincoln’s Cottage, now maintained by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is where President Lincoln developed the Emancipation Proclamation. So it was fitting that, on Lincoln’s birthday this year, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey presented a copy of the map to Cottage officials, to assist with their vital educational programs.

In the very library where Lincoln may have studied the map, Coast Survey’s Dawn Forsythe (left) and NOAA’s Ben Sherman (right) presented the map to Erin Carlson Mast, the Cottage’s executive director, and Callie Hawkins, associate director for programs.

Dawn Forsythe (Coast Survey), Erin Carlson Mast and Callie Hawkins (Lincoln's Cottage), and Ben Sherman (NOAA) with the slave density map in the Lincoln Cottage library.

Dawn Forsythe (Coast Survey), Erin Carlson Mast and Callie Hawkins (Lincoln’s Cottage), and Ben Sherman (NOAA) with a copy of the slave density map in the Lincoln Cottage library.

 

The Cottage plans to use the map in their educational programs. To learn more about the map, see Mapping Slavery in the Nineteenth Century.

The men of Coast Survey created the map to help the public understand the secession crisis, by providing a visual link between secession and slavery.

The men of Coast Survey created the map to help the public understand the secession crisis, by providing a visual link between secession and slavery.

So you want to chart an artificial reef?   2 comments

There are literally millions of pieces of data on nautical charts. How do cartographers determine which data to put on the charts? Two Coast Survey cartographers, Paul Gionis and Lance Roddy, explained some of the processes, protocols, and NOAA charting requirements to participants at the Florida Artificial Reef Summit earlier this month. (See the archived video of their presentation, starting at 55:40.) Among their many duties, these cartographers are responsible for vetting artificial reef public notices and permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and for acquiring source data from the state and county reef coordinators.

By explaining the nautical chart aspects of planning, creating, and maintaining fish havens, they hoped to smooth out the permitting and charting phases.

(By the way, in case you’re wondering what we mean by “fish haven,” Coast Survey’s Nautical Chart Manual defines them as “artificial shelters constructed of rocks, rubble, boxcars, boats, concrete, special designed precast structures to enhance fish habitats, remnants of oil well structures, etc., that are placed on the sea floor to attract fish. Fish havens are often located near fishing ports or major coastal inlets and are usually considered hazards to shipping. Constructed of rigid material and projecting above the bottom, they can impede surface navigation and therefore represent an important feature for charting.”)

Permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers are the sole source for classifying obstructions as artificial reefs and fish havens for charting purposes. Specific essential information needs to be provided for charting the areas.

  • Cartographers need accurate geographic coordinates and dimensions, and the “authorized minimum clearance” (safe vessel clearance) for each distinct reef boundary.
  • Importantly, the designated area cannot conflict with charted features. For instance, we cannot designate artificial reefs or fish havens in safety fairways, restricted areas, anchorages, or entrance channels. It almost goes without saying that we also don’t want to place reefs in missile test areas, or areas with pipelines, cables, or unexploded ordnance.
  • The cartographers must receive notice of deployment (telling us that construction has begun).

A good example of how Coast Survey works on charting artificial reefs is the initial reef proposal for Port Everglades chart 11466. The initial proposal designated a minimum clearance of 7 feet – which would prevent a mariner from transiting the area even though the water is very deep. The proposed reef area also conflicted with two established anchorages for commercial ships waiting to enter the port.

Initial reef proposal

Initial reef proposal

 

After working with the Corps of Engineers and project planners, Coast Survey was able to split the area and chart three separate bands with progressively deeper minimum depths, from seven feet to 60 feet of clearance. They also avoided overlap with the charted anchorages. The solution prevented navigation conflicts and protected the artificial reef.

Charted fish havens were banded progressive depths, excluding anchorages

Charted fish havens were banded by progressive depths, and excluded anchorages.

The cartographers appreciated the chance to talk directly to Florida’s artificial reef community. “Events like these provide an expansive avenue to articulate Coast Survey requirements for promoting safe and efficient navigation,” Gionis points out.

Coast Survey’s navigation manager for Florida, Mike Henderson, is our charting representative on the ground in that state, and is available to work on future projects as well as answer charting inquiries in general.

NOAA Open House to share scientific awesomeness   Leave a comment

Explore your world and learn how NOAA — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — takes the pulse of the planet every day and protects and manages ocean and coastal resources. 2015 NOAA Open House Ad

Join us on NOAA’s Silver Spring, Maryland, campus for a day of discovery. Listen to engaging talks by NOAA experts, explore interactive exhibits, take special tours, and have fun with hands-on activities for ages 5 and up. Meet and talk with scientists, weather forecasters, hurricane hunters, cartographers, and others who work to understand our environment, protect life and property, and conserve and protect natural resources.

The Silver Spring campus is at 1315 East-West Highway, next to the Silver Spring Metro Stop (Red Line). Public parking is available.

NOTE: A government-issued photo ID is required for adults. Check NOAA Open House for a list of acceptable forms of identification.

Visit www.noaa.gov/openhouse for details or call 301-713-7258 for more information.

Posted January 22, 2015 by NOAA Office of Coast Survey in Education, Event

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