NOAA puts technology to good use

Carl Staton, NOAA’s chief information officer, discusses some of the new and exciting technologies in development for 2006.

From development of quieter fishing vessels to tracking hurricanes, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are effectively using technology to improve service to the country.

For example, NOAA officials’ plan to expand integration of aerial photography imagery with commercial services could help government agencies and insurance companies better assess damage from hurricanes, said Carl Staton, NOAA's chief information officer. Last fall, the agency partnered with Google to adapt aerial photography of damaged coastlines into the company’s Google Earth application following Hurricane Katrina and other storms, Staton said.

“You could pick out as one of the data parameters on Google Earth the NOAA damage assessment imagery and overlay it on their map,” he said. “During our peak download time we were sustaining about a gigabyte per second in download of that imagery over several hours. Our peak download on any particular day was over 45 terabytes.”

He said expansion of using that data with commercial services could, for example, help insurance agencies find properties through high-resolution photographs of damage to specific properties without ever going there.

In another project, officials at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., are developing a better chemistry climate model, which recently demonstrated that damage to the earth’s ozone layer could persist for a decade or two longer than previously thought, he said.

The agency has also launched two new fishing survey vessels and is constructing a third to help conduct marine-related research. “But the cool technology there is the things are so darn quiet,” Staton said. “ If you’re doing sonar work –- listening for whales or whatever the fishing mission might happen to be –- you have that much less interference from the actual boat itself. And then instruments on the boat can suffer from a noisy boat.”

“I really think that NOAA is the best investment of taxpayers’ money,” Staton said. “It shows in the products and services that NOAA provides to the country. And everything I’ve talked about is geared toward improving that mission and that service.”

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