NOAA opens coastal portal

nowCOAST

A new Web portal run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides information from thousands of real-time observing stations and forecast locations to coastal residents and others interested in weather and water-related conditions.

NOAA officials said nowCOAST is a one-stop shopping Web site because without it, users would have to scour their site and other sources for real-time observations and forecasts.

The portal provides links to meteorological, oceanographic, river and water quality observations from remote and on-site sensing platforms from observing networks, such as airway stations, climate reference stations, fixed buoys, coastal platforms, river gauges, Doppler weather radars, high frequency current radars, radiosondes — miniature radio transmitters that send weather data from unmanned balloons — and wind profilers. Several organizations run these networks, including universities and state and federal agencies. The portal also links to various NOAA forecast models.

In nowCOAST, users can choose from four pull down menus. First, they specify a location, such as a region, state, estuary, lake or seaport. Then, they choose the observation or forecast they want. Next, they can select from among variables such as air temperature, cloud cover or snowfall. Finally, they pick a time based on whether they want real-time data or forecasts for a certain time period.

Once users make the selections, the portal provides a color-coded map of observation or forecast sites. Users can click on a particular observation or forecast icon that's indicated and then view the displayed data. Users can zoom or move the map in addition to making a query. They can also overlay maps with additional data layers, among other things.

The portal was developed by the National Ocean Service's Cast Survey Development Laboratory with a two-year grant from the agency and the its Satellites and Information Service's Environmental Services Data and Information Management program.

In the future, nowCOAST will be monitored by the Continuous Operational Real-Time Monitoring System within the National Ocean Service to ensure the links are viable.

"nowCOAST is a valuable tool for safety and commerce, providing easily accessible and up-to-date information for everyone," Richard Spinrad, the National Ocean Service's assistant administrator, said in a press release. "Mariners, students and those living in coastal communities will appreciate the convenience of finding all of this information at one Web site."

According to the posted information, the Web site is intended to help recreational and commercial mariners, coastal managers, hazardous material responders, computer modelers and marine educators find data.

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