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NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

Our research portfolio encompasses ocean, coastal, and atmospheric studies to ready the Nation for changes driven by weather, climate, and pressures on marine ecosystems.

Improving Hurricane Forecasts

We fly into storms to directly observe the processes that drive intensity change, employ new technology such as ocean gliders and unmanned aircraft to observe where humans cannot safely go, and get these observations into our evolving and improving hurricane models like the Hurricane Weather Research Forecast (HWRF) model to help NOAA provide the best forecasts possible.

Identifying Solutions for Coastal Ecosystems

AOML takes an ecosystem-based approach to describing how the physical, chemical, and human environment is connected to and influences marine species. We consider impacts and relationships to coastal systems such as coral reefs, and economically important fish stocks managed by our NOAA and state partners, so that they can best manage resources.

Understanding the Global Carbon Cycle

AOML works with our partners to describe the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle. Using ships of opportunity, we monitor carbon as it moves between the ocean and the atmosphere. We also look at the impact of increasing amounts of carbon in the ocean, which causes ocean acidification.

Understanding the Ocean's Role in Climate & Weather

AOML leverages data from its ocean observing systems to examine patterns of change in ocean features and how these patterns of change can explain, and even predict, severe weather events such as hurricanes. We also study how the ocean can influence seasonal patterns such as extreme temperatures and drought.

Maintaining Ocean Observing Systems

AOML designs, optimizes, and maintains key ocean observing systems with global partners to monitor ocean currents and other properties. We study how ocean changes affect climate and marine ecosystems and build on the current state of knowledge by maintaining valuable, long-term datasets of ocean changes over time to improve earth system predictions.

Advancing Environmental Modeling

Computer simulations of the natural world help inform decision making and save lives. We work closely with federal, university, and international communities to advance the state of hurricane modeling, inform sound economic investment in observing systems, and understand the impact of resource management decisions.

Recent News

Scientists at AOML Present Coral Research at the First Virtual International Coral Reef Symposium

Coral scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) will be presenting their research at the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) from July 19-23, 2021, which will be held virtually for the first time in the history of the ICRS.

Top News

Scientists at AOML Present Coral Research at the First Virtual International Coral Reef Symposium

Coral scientists at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) will be presenting their research at the 14th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) from July 19-23, 2021, which will be held virtually for the first time in the history of the ICRS.

UN Ocean Decade Endorses Several AOML Collaborative Initiatives
Ocean Observations Collected Ahead of Atlantic Tropical Storm Claudette
RV Endeavor as viewed from a small boat. Image credit: NOAA
AOML Researchers Monitor Important Boundary Currents in the North Atlantic Ocean Through Direct Measurements at Sea
AOML Scientist Collects eDNA to Make Connections in Marine Food Webs
RV Endeavor as viewed from a small boat. Image credit: NOAA
Satellite image of Hurricane Micheal. Image Credit, NOAA.
Coral Outplanting. Image Credit: NOAA
Image Credit: UNESCO

Hurricane, Climate, Coastal and Ocean Research.

ADVANCING Environmental Modeling

Computer simulations of the natural world help inform decision making and save lives. We work closely with federal, academic, and international communities to advance the state of hurricane modeling, inform sound economic investment in observing systems, and understand the impact of resource management decisions.

UNDERSTANDING The Global Carbon Cycle

AOML works with our partners to describe the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle. Using ships of opportunity, we monitor carbon as it moves between the ocean and the atmosphere. We also look at the impact of increasing amounts of carbon in the ocean, which causes ocean acidification.

IMPROVING Hurricane Forecasts

We fly into storms to directly observe the processes that drive intensity change, employ new technology such as ocean gliders and unmanned aircraft to observe where humans cannot safely go, and get these observations into our evolving and improving hurricane models like the Hurricane Weather Research Forecast (HWRF) model to help NOAA provide the best forecasts possible.

UNDERSTANDING THE OCEAN'S ROLE In Climate & Weather

AOML leverages data from its ocean observing systems to examine  patterns of change in ocean features and how these patterns of change can explain, and even predict, severe weather events such as hurricanes. We also study how the ocean can influence seasonal patterns such as extreme temperatures and drought.

MAINTAINING Ocean Observing Systems

AOML designs, optimizes, and maintains key ocean observing systems with global partners to monitor ocean currents and other properties. We study how ocean changes affect climate and marine ecosystems and build on the current state of knowledge by maintaining valuable, long-term datasets of ocean changes over time to improve earth system predictions.

IDENTIFYING SOLUTIONS For Coastal Ecosystems

AOML takes an ecosystem-based approach to describing how the physical, chemical, and human environment is connected to and influences marine species. We consider impacts and relationships to coastal systems such as coral reefs and economically important fish stocks managed by our NOAA and state partners, so that they can best manage resources.

Our Research Makes an Impact

Project: Monitoring the Ocean Improves Weather Forecasts

AOML plays a key role in collecting and maintaining sustained ocean observations that monitor the temperature and salinity of ocean features using drifters, Argo floats, XBTs, moorings, and other platforms.

Impact: Adding Ocean Data from Directly Beneath a Storm Leads to More Accurate Hurricane Forecasts

Unmanned Ocean Glider data improve our understanding of the current ocean state and are used to initialize hurricane models. Data from gliders passing under Hurricane Gonzalo improved the intensity forecast by one category on the Saffir Simpson Scale.

Project: Monitoring Commercially Important Sportfish Populations

AOML developed a sportfish model that the US Army Corps of Engineers adopted to evaluate the impacts of Everglades Restoration on south Florida’s economically and ecologically important sportfish populations.

Impact: Empowers Managers to Evaluate Different Scenarios and Plan for the Future

The majority of sportfish in south Florida are dependent upon healthy estuaries with natural freshwater runoff. The model shows how sea trout would respond to different management scenarios, giving managers actionable information.

Project: HWRF's High Resolution Moving Nest Module

AOML developed a high resolution moving nest in NOAA's regional hurricane model known as HWRF, increasing resolution over the storm environment. We transition the HWRF model into operations in joint partnership with NOAA's Environmental Modeling Center.

Impact: Improved Forecast Accuracy Better Informs Coastal Communities

The HWRF model has improved intensity forecasts by 10- 5 kts in the critical decision making period of 48-72 hours before landfall. This allows people to make informed decisions to prepare their families, homes, and communities.

Monitoring the Ocean Improves Weather Forecasts

AOML plays a key role in collecting and maintaining sustained ocean observations that monitor the temperature and salinity of ocean features using drifters, Argo floats, XBTs, moorings, and other platforms.

Impact: Adding Ocean Data from Directly Beneath a Storm Leads to More Accurate Hurricane Forecasts

Unmanned Ocean Glider data improve our understanding of the current ocean state and are used to initialize hurricane models. Data from gliders passing under Hurricane Gonzalo improved the intensity forecast by one category on the Saffir Simpson Scale.

Monitoring Commercially Important Sportfish Populations

AOML developed a sportfish model that the US Army Corps of Engineers adopted to evaluate the impacts of Everglades Restoration on south Florida’s economically and ecologically important sportfish populations.

Impact: Empowers Managers to Evaluate Different Scenarios and Plan for the Future

The majority of sportfish in south Florida are dependent upon healthy estuaries with natural freshwater runoff. The model shows how sea trout would respond to different management scenarios, giving managers actionable information.

HWRF's High Resolution Moving Nest

AOML developed a high resolution moving nest in NOAA’s regional hurricane model known as HWRF, increasing resolution over the storm environment. We transition the HWRF model into operations in joint partnership with NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center.

Impact: Improved Forecast Accuracy Better Informs Coastal Communities

The HWRF model has improved intensity forecasts by 10- 5 kts in the critical decision making period of 48-72 hours before landfall. This allows people to make informed decisions to prepare their families, homes, and communities.

Featured Publication

Integrated Ocean Carbon

IOC-R. 2021. Integrated Ocean Carbon Research: A Summary of Ocean Carbon Research, and Vision of Coordinated Ocean Carbon Research and Observations for the Next Decade. R. Wanninkhof, C. Sabine and S. Aricò (eds.). Paris, UNESCO. 46 pp. (IOC Technical Series, 158.) doi:10.25607/h0gj-pq41 

Introduction: Knowledge of the ocean carbon cycle is critical in light of its role in sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere and for meeting goals and targets such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the associated UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Increasing levels of CO2 in the ocean, predominantly due to human greenhouse gas emissions, and the partitioning of CO2 into organic and inorganic species have fundamental impacts on ocean carbon cycling and ecosystem health. The Integrated Ocean Carbon Research (IOC-R) effort aims to address key issues in ocean carbon research through investigative and observational goals. It takes advantage of the appreciable knowledge gained from studies over the last four decades of the ocean carbon cycle and its perturbations.

Read the Full Report

iocr-report-cover

IOC-R. 2021. Integrated Ocean Carbon Research: A Summary of Ocean Carbon Research, and Vision of Coordinated Ocean Carbon Research and Observations for the Next Decade. R. Wanninkhof, C. Sabine and S. Aricò (eds.). Paris, UNESCO. 46 pp. (IOC Technical Series, 158.) doi:10.25607/h0gj-pq41 

Introduction: Knowledge of the ocean carbon cycle is critical in light of its role in sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere and for meeting goals and targets such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the associated UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Increasing levels of CO2 in the ocean, predominantly due to human greenhouse gas emissions, and the partitioning of CO2 into organic and inorganic species have fundamental impacts on ocean carbon cycling and ecosystem health. The Integrated Ocean Carbon Research (IOC-R) effort aims to address key issues in ocean carbon research through investigative and observational goals. It takes advantage of the appreciable knowledge gained from studies over the last four decades of the ocean carbon cycle and its perturbations.

Read the Full Report

AOML & GFDL’s Grassroots Collaboration

New Opportunities in a Virtual Environment

“This is a great starting point; it gave people a list of more than 10 topics with researchers at both labs working on similar problems. We now know who is a  person we can contact, and that they are interested in collaborating because they gave a talk at the workshop.”

-Renellys Perez, Organizer and Participant

Frequently Asked Questions about Hurricanes

Why Don't Nuclear Weapons Destroy Hurricanes?

The amount of energy that a storm produces far outweighs the energy produced by one nuclear weapon. Additionally, the downside of radioactive fallout from such an operation would far outweigh the benefits and may not even alter the storm.

For more info click here.

How Much Energy is Released from a Hurricane?

The energy released from a hurricane can be explained in two ways: the total amount of energy released by the condensation of water droplets (latent heat), or the amount of kinetic energy generated to maintain the strong, swirling winds of a hurricane. The vast majority of the latent heat released is used to drive the convection of a storm, but the total energy released from condensation is 200 times the world-wide electrical generating capacity, or 6.0 x 1014 watts per day. If you measure the total kinetic energy instead, it comes out to about 1.5 x 1012 watts per day, or ½ of the world-wide electrical generating capacity. It would seem that although wind energy seems the most obvious energetic process, it is actually the latent release of heat that feeds a hurricane’s momentum.

For more info click here.

What Causes Tropical Cyclones?

The tropical atmosphere is often unstable.  The amount of energy accumulated in the lower layers though the evaporation of water eventually overcomes any stable cap.  This allows clusters of thunderstorms to form.  These clusters move along with the prevailing winds as tropical disturbances.  Occasionally, cyclonic circulations will develop within these disturbances.  These circulations can be amplified and the disturbance will form a tropical cyclone.  Only about 10% of disturbances become tropical cyclones, so large-scale influences impinging on such disturbances play a big role in cyclone formation.

For more info click here.

Why are Tropical Cyclone Winds Usually Stronger on One Side?

A hurricane is usually a symmetrical spiral.  But if it is moving forward, then this motion makes the wind field asymmetrical.  The side of the spiral with winds blowing in the direction of movement will add the forward speed to the wind speed. The side of the spiral with the wind blowing in the opposite direction will be subtract the forward speed from the wind speed.

For example, a hurricane with 90mph winds moving forward at 10mph would have a 100mph wind speed on the forward-moving side and 80 mph on the side with winds blowing backward to the motion.

For more info click here.

How are Hurricanes Named?

Names are assigned to organized tropical cyclones once their winds exceed 39 mph (17.5 m/s, 34 knots).  The names are drawn from a list that is created prior to the season by the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization.  Each tropical cyclone basin has its own name list, which is maintained by a WMO Regional Committee. If a particularly damaging storm occurs, the name of that storm can be retired.  If a storm happens to move across basins, it keeps the original name. The only time it is renamed if it dissipates to a tropical disturbance and then reforms.

For more info click here.