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Foundation Data Sets and Products: Honorable Mentions

Acid Rain Data Set

Acid rain was one of the major environmental concerns during the late 20th century, and remains a critical issue today.  Under the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program in the 1980s, NOAA collected data on acid rain and dry deposition of acidic compounds to U.S. surface water bodies and land surfaces.  These data sets were used to develop and evaluate models that supported scientific assessments of the acid rain problem.  They formed the basis for the Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which regulates emission of precursors to sulfate and nitrate acid rain.

CoastWatch Products

CoastWatch products are data and images from NOAA’s geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites, NASA’s earth observing satellites, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, and the Orbview-2 and QuikSCAT satellites.  NOAA established CoastWatch in 1987 in response to two harmful algal blooms off the coast of North Carolina and a die-off of more than 700 bottlenose dolphins in the mid-Atlantic.

The most commonly requested CoastWatch products are sea surface temperature, ocean surface winds, or ocean color. Sea surface temperature images help meteorologists predict weather and fishermen locate prime fishing areas.  Images of ocean color and chlorophyll a levels help scientists to track changes in the ocean that may indicate harmful algal blooms; sailors and commercial shipping pilots use images of ocean surface winds for navigation. Each image and data set is available in near real-time.

Computer-aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO)

CAMEO is a software suite for first responders to all types of chemical releases. It contains a database of response-related information and recommendations for thousands of hazardous materials; tools for predicting toxic gas hazards, chemical reactivity, fires, and explosions; and a simple geographic information system that displays maps of every U.S. county and possession with selected information from U.S. Census Bureau, U.S Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Geological Survey data sets. When NOAA spill response scientists developed CAMEO in 1986, it was a groundbreaking product that transformed the method chemical release response.

Over the past two decades, CAMEO has become the most widely used chemical emergency response and planning tool in the U.S. and probably the world.  Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, accurate information on the fate and consequences of chemicals that may be released is more important than ever. In fact, in the five years since that fateful day in 2001, users have downloaded more than 250,000 copies of the CAMEO software suite.

Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS)

CORS is an international network of Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers that operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and receive satellite signals from GPS satellites.  NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey receives all CORS data at its headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland and makes CORS data available to the public on its Web site.

Surveyors, engineers, scientists, and others can apply the data from CORS receivers to position points where GPS data have been collected to improve position accuracy.  The CORS system enables positioning accuracies that approach a few centimeters relative to the National Spatial Reference System, both horizontally and vertically. CORS is also used to monitor motion of the Earth’s crust, moisture content in the atmosphere, and free electrons in the ionosphere. The National Geodetic Survey established CORS in 1994. As of 2006, CORS had almost 1,000 stations and is growing at the rate of about 200 stations per year.

Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) Maps

ESI maps present a standard approach to mapping shoreline types and sensitive biological and human use resources in coastal areas. They have been an integral component of oil spill contingency planning and spill response since 1979, when NOAA spill responders prepared the first ESI maps in advance of oil slicks following the IXTOC I well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, maps have helped NOAA’s response to countless oil spills, making it possible to identify and protect the most sensitive resources in a timely manner.  ESI maps have been prepared for all of the contiguous U.S. coastal states, Alaska, Hawaii, the Great Lakes and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Flight Level Hurricane Data

Starting in 1956 and continuing today, the U. S. Weather Bureau's National Hurricane Research Project (NHRP) began to explore the severe nature of hurricanes by organizing research flights (sorties) into the storms by aircraft equipped with data-gathering instruments.

During the first few years of the project, instruments recorded only the most basic meteorological data.  Over the years, the data sets expanded as aircraft changed, instrumentation improved, and the questions scientists asked became more complicated.  Improved cloud physics probes allowed better understanding of tropical cyclone thermodynamics; Doppler radar aboard the planes led to mapping storm wind fields; and dropsonde improvements promoted better vertical definition of the storms’ boundary layer and better estimates of near-surface winds.  This information has been used as 'ground truth' for satellites going back to the TIROS series in the 1960s. It is regularly mined to research issues in hurricane climatology, hurricane modeling, and forecasting. To date, the data sets include information on over 1,000 sorties into 225 tropical cyclones worldwide.

Search And Rescue Satellite-aided Tracking (SARSAT)

SARSAT is a global rescue system that uses NOAA satellites in low-earth and geostationary orbits to detect and locate aviators, mariners, and land-based users in distress. The satellites relay distress signals from emergency beacons carried by planes, ships and individuals to a network of ground stations and ultimately to the U.S. Mission Control Center in Suitland, Maryland. Each beacon emits a unique digital signal. The center processes distress signals and alerts the appropriate search and rescue authorities of the person or carrier that is in distress and, more importantly, where they are located.

Tide and Water Level Geophysical Time Series

The U.S. Coast Survey first began continuous water level measurements at the San Francisco Bay tide station in 1854 and at six Great Lakes water level stations in 1860.  These stations are part of NOAA’s National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON), a set of 187 water-level measuring locations in all coastal states as well as U.S island possessions and the Great Lakes.  Nineteen stations have continuous records that extend over a century; an additional twenty-three stations have continuous records for more than 75 years.  Fifty years ago, NWLON consisted of only 100 stations.  Today, NWLON observations represent over 9,900 station-years of water level time series data.

The applications of NWLON bring its data to life.  The data still fulfill their traditional role of tidal predictions, reference datums, and hydrographic sounding corrections for nautical charts at the local level.  However, the data are being used increasingly at national and regional scale.  Some of these applications are: measuring the amplitude and timing of basin-wide tsunamis; measuring the amplitude and duration of storm surges from hurricanes, coastal storms, and seiches on the Great Lakes; updating the tide prediction tables and tidal datums; and monitoring mean sea levels to analyze the severity and duration of decadal climate events such as El Niño and the changing evapotranspiration cycle in the Great Lakes.