As the news about hurricane-induced damage and devastation to islands and coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico continues to unfold, the fires in the forests of California provide another heartbreaking reminder of our fragility and susceptibility to our environment. Any time we experience natural disasters such as these, part of the recovery process includes learning what we can do to be better prepared next time. We’ve made great strides – in 1900, locals in Galveston were warned of an approaching Category 4 hurricane just one day in advance, compared to Houston residents in August who knew Hurricane Harvey was headed their way almost a week before it made landfall. We have numerous government agencies, offices, researchers, innovators, and scientists to thank for the advances that have put us where we are today, and two that come to mind now are part of NOAA – the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the (less-known) National Integrated Drought Information Service (NIDIS).
The NHC, with a mission to “save lives, mitigate property loss, and improve economic efficiency” has been working to improve hurricane watches, warnings, and forecasts and to better understand them and provide decision support. Likewise, NIDIS’ goal is to better manage drought-related risks (e.g., wildfires) and to prepare for and mitigate their effects; to do so, NIDIS is building a nationwide Drought Early Warning System. The importance of ocean observations in weather prediction at all time scales is often overlooked outside of the realm of coastal hazards, such as hurricanes and nor’easters. As our ocean drives weather and climate (not just in coastal areas but inland as well), the better we know our ocean, the better our weather predictions will be and the better prepared we will be as a nation in the face of these disasters.
It is hard to underscore the importance of NOAA to our nation, as the agency is responsible for so much that we rely on for our safety, security, and health – from the seafood we eat and catch to the navigational safety of our ports, harbors, and coastal areas and from ensuring our grandchildren’s world has whales to the analysis and prediction of weather, water, ocean, and climate conditions across our nation and globe. This is why I’m pleased that steps have been taken to fill two crucial leadership positions at NOAA. Last week, the president nominated Barry Myers to lead NOAA; if confirmed, he will join Rear Admiral (Ret.) Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., who was recently confirmed and will soon start his new role as deputy administrator. I believe these two individuals will join other NOAA appointees and career leaders to ensure the agency continues to excel as it enables (and improves) the nation’s safety and security. I also extend my sincere appreciation and congratulations to Ben Friedman; since January he has selflessly led NOAA as acting administrator with great success amid a (literally) stormy period. I look forward to working with NOAA’s new leadership team on issues of critical importance to our nation’s ocean security and helping ensure the agency’s science mission underlies all decision making, which will only serve to strengthen our nation.
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Research In The Arctic: Discovering Changes In The Ecosystem
Arctic research has been ongoing for several decades, yet there is still a clear need for additional studies to better understand the processes driving the Arctic marine ecosystem as a whole—even more so as Arctic sea ice continues to retreat at an increasing rate. Changes in sea ice timing, presence, extent, or thickness will have profound influences on coastal communities, marine mammals, seabirds, fishes, plankton, and oceanography. The North Pacific Research Board’s (NPRB) Arctic Program is the newest integrated ecosystem research program (IERP) to date.