SR SSD 99-27
11-1-99

Technical Attachment

Project ACCESS Workshop - A Trip Report

Andrew Shashy
Marine Focal Point
NWSO Jacksonville, Florida

A one-day Project ACCESS (Accelerated Coastal Community Environmental Science Service) workshop was held at the University of Florida's Whitney Laboratory - an NWS cooperative observation site - near the Marineland facilities on October 27, 1999. The workshop was organized and led by Judy Gray (AOML) and Mike Crane (NODC) and was co-sponsored by the St. Johns River Water Management District. The workshop focused on coastal issues from Melbourne northward to the Georgia border. Pat Welsh (SOO) and Andrew Shashy (Marine FP) attended from NWSO Jacksonville. Personnel from NWSO Melbourne were unable to attend.

The meeting was attended by a wide variety of providers and users of meteorological, oceanographic, hydrologic, and other coastal ecological data in the central and northern portions of Florida. The purpose of project ACCESS is to improve marine safety, coastal economies, and environmental protection through better understanding of existing and predicted marine conditions by making available as much coastal oceanic and atmospheric data to as wide an audience as possible. For many participants, the goal of the meeting was to meet with other agencies relative to their field of study and work, and learn what information could be shared among the user community.

It appeared there were a few agencies at the meeting which could help us solve some of the mesoscale data issues we face in the NWSO Jacksonville County Warning Area. Our presentation focused on the current NWS product suite and services for the marine community, and a two- to five-year outlook on research and development efforts planned at NWSO Jacksonville. We discussed plans to begin mesoscale numerical modeling and our participation with the Navy and Skidaway Institute under the NOPP Grant which includes instrumenting the Navy towers off the Georgia Coast.

Other major agencies involved or presenting information at the meeting were:

Florida Division of Emergency Management
FEMA (Atlanta office)
St. Johns River Water Management District
St. Johns Bar Pilots
N.E. Region Planning Council
Public Health Department-St. Johns County
Florida Power and Light
US Army Corp of Engineers
Department of Environmental Protection (Beaches)
US Navy (MetOc Facility, NAS Jacksonville)

Following is a summary of important results of the workshop, from our perspective.

A discussion by Capt. Eric Brison of the St. Johns Bar Pilots touched on the PORTS system. PORTS (Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System) is a program of the National Ocean Service that supports safe and cost-efficient navigation by providing ship masters and pilots with accurate real-time information required to avoid groundings and collisions. This system is being used in Tampa Bay, Houston, New York, and other major ports. PORTS comprises real-time reports of tidal currents, meteorological information (winds, temperatures, etc.), and other oceanographic data. Apparently, this NOS program has not normally included any adjacent NWS office in its data path. The data are sent to Washington for quality assurance and analysis. Capt. Brison indicated the Port of Jacksonville has plans to implement this system within 12-18 months. This was encouraging news, and we believe it would be very helpful to our programs if the NWSO could acquire the observations.

Acquiring even a small network of observations from the Port of Jacksonville would complement our other efforts to obtain data not only at the coast but from the offshore waters as well. Telephone voice access to the PORTS information allows a much better realtime data stream than we currently have from area, and the data are directly oriented toward the factors affecting ship control and navigation in ports. Utilizing those data, our forecasts can help in decision-making about cargo load and ship speed. Capt. Brison is aware the NWS is very interested in acquiring these data and our willingness to help in the design, proposal and implementation phases of this program.

Contact was made with Dave Williams of the St. Johns Beach Safety Division who discussed a log sheet for rip current potential which his staff uses on a daily basis. The log is directly based on the shared results of Pete Mohlin's rip current study at NWSO Jacksonville. The Beach Safety Division has adapted the study to their specific beaches and fly varying color flags to signify various rip current threat occurrences. They report great success with Pete's criteria.

Another interesting discussion was with the St. Johns Health Department representative Don Hallman regarding the recent red tide bloom off the northeast Florida coast. He questioned whether we could monitor and/or predict what is going with the red tide situation. We told him there are satellite remote sensors which look in the band in which "red tide" species of dinoflagellates fluoresce, but that band is shared by a large number of other planktonic creatures. Although there is still controversy about the use of satellite imagery to detect toxic blooms, he was made aware of the NOAA Coastwatch program, which helps monitor the ocean thermal features associated with toxic plankton blooms.

There were also other discussions and displays about the northeast Florida area as it relates to the St. Johns River, including discussion with Dr. Quint White from Jacksonville University on potential cooperative research projects, perhaps utilizing COMET funding. After a discussion of the recent 800 gallon oil spill in the Port of Jacksonville, Dr. Fred Morris of the St Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) offered the NWS the use of their hydrologic model of the lower St Johns River Basin for realtime support of major pollution and oil spill events. This warrants further investigation, and might include use of the model by the Atlanta RFC or NWSO Jacksonville. One SJRWMD Web site which may be useful is the HAM (Hydrodynamic and Meteorological Database) at http://sjr.state.fl.us/ims/ham_sta/hamframe.html, This database stores and collects time-series data of both meteorological and hydrological data.

The Web address for AOML's Project ACCESS is: http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/oad/paccess/