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Environmental Monitoring

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December 2012 Issue

NOAA Aids Post-Sandy Response Efforts on East Coast
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the U.S. Mid-Atlantic and Northeast in October, NOAA focused on navigation surveys to restore maritime commerce; aerial surveys to assist in those efforts and to aid Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local responders; and oil spill cleanup and damage assessment. NOAA’s National Weather Service also kept authorities aware of changing weather conditions that could have affected recovery and response efforts.

Sandy’s large size, with tropical storm force winds extending nearly 500 miles from the center, led to more than 100 fatalities, large-scale flooding, wind damage and mass power outages.

NOAA hydrographers and survey technicians continued to process the data collected by five NOAA vessels since Sandy response operations began on October 30 at the Port of New York and New Jersey. Once processed, the data collected by vessels in New York, New Jersey, Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay will be available from the National Geophysical Data Center.

As of early November, work continued in the Port of New York and New Jersey to clear shipping channels and terminals.

NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey’s remote-sensing program has captured aerial photographic surveys of more than 1,649 miles of coastline to document coastal damage and impacts to navigation. FEMA has used the NOAA photos, as well as those from the Civil Air Patrol, to assess damage to some 35,000 homes as of early November.

Sandy’s extreme weather conditions—80 to 90 mph winds and sea levels more than 14 feet above normal—spread oil, hazardous materials and debris across waterways and industrial port areas along the Mid Atlantic. NOAA is working with the U.S. Coast Guard and affected facilities to reduce the impacts of this pollution in coastal New York and New Jersey.

NOAA’s Atlantic Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA), a Web-based GIS tool, is helping emergency responders and environmental resource managers deal with Sandy’s environmental impacts.


US Temperature, Precipitation Near Average in October
The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during October was 53.9° F, 0.3° F below the long-term average, ending a 16-month streak of above-average temperatures that began in June 2011, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center said.

Hurricane Sandy brought large storm surge and high water levels to the coastal Northeast, with New Jersey, New York and Connecticut hard hit. The 13.88-foot observed water level at the Battery in New York City broke the local record set in 1960 during Hurricane Donna by more than 3 feet. The Delaware River in Philadelphia also reached a new record high water level of 10.6 feet due to heavy precipitation and storm surge.

Sandy also brought blizzard conditions to the Central and Southern Appalachians, where more than a foot of snow fell in six states from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, breaking October monthly and single storm snowfall records. Snowfall totals across the highest elevations neared 3 feet.

The Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent for October was the eighth largest monthly extent in the 45-year period of record, at 734,000 square miles above average. The North American snow cover extent was the seventh largest on record for October.

The U.S. October nationally averaged precipitation total of 2.19 inches was slightly above the long-term average. The Northwest, Midwest and Northeast were wetter than average, while below-average precipitation was observed across the Southern Rockies and the Central and Southern Plains. As of October 30, 60.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing drought conditions, with the most severe conditions in the Great Plains.

The U.S. region from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico had below-average temperatures in October, with 19 states having monthly temperatures below their 20th-century averages.

The Southwest and the Northeast were the only two regions of the United States with above-average temperatures.


Hydrophones Monitor Humpback Whales in British Columbia
Pacific Wild, a nonprofit conservation organization, has deployed audio monitoring stations at four points along the British Columbia shoreline to capture live sounds of humpback whales in their natural marine environment.

  The network uses Cetacean Research Technology (Seattle, Washington) C55 hydrophones and Barix AG (Zurich, Switzerland) Instreamer IP audio devices. The Instreamer encodes the sounds captured by the hydrophones, which are live streamed 24/7 over the Internet, available to the public at http://pacificwild.org/site/great-bear-live/hydrophones.

The audio system allows monitoring of changes in individual whale song and how sound is passed between whales. The data will enable the study of behavioral patterns of humpback whales and how surrounding activity, such as shipping, affects their behavior.

  Pacific Wild’s previous audio system recorded 8-bit audio at 8 kilohertz, which made it challenging to capture clear sound. After a network upgrade in August, signal integrity and compatibility improved, with the Instreamer digitizing the hydrophone-captured audio into 16-bit MP3 for better sound quality.

The system captures both loud identification calls and soft chatter. It uses Tranzeo Wireless Technologies Inc. 802.11 microwave radios to deliver the live stream. 

Pacific Wild expects to expand up to 12 sites over the next five years.


Google, USGS Partner to Offer Online Emergency Alerts
Emergency notifications for earthquakes, severe weather and other public safety matters are now available via Google Public Alerts.

Earthquake data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have been incorporated into the system, as well as data from NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Minutes after an earthquake, USGS publishes information on the origin time, location and magnitude, which is distributed on Google websites.


2013:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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