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Spotlight on Sandy

Five New USGS Oceanographic Datasets Published Online—Uses Include Assessing Coastal Resilience to Storms

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Oceanographic data from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) experiments off Fire Island, New York; in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey; in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Wells, Maine; on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana; and on Dauphin Island, Alabama, were published online in 2014 and early 2015 by the USGS Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. These are “time-series” data—measurements taken at regular intervals over a period of time—and include water temperature, pressure, current velocity, conductivity (salinity), suspended-sediment concentration, and more. These and the other datasets posted at “U.S. Geological Survey Oceanographic Time-Series Data” will help scientists better understand oceanographic and related sediment-transport processes. Knowing how much energy is required to move sediment, and how much energy is produced by storms of varying sizes, permits the development of more accurate planning tools.

Top of description webpage for experiment conducted off Fire Island, New York, in 2014
Above: Top of description page for experiment conducted off Fire Island, New York, in 2014. Map shows locations of numbered sampling stations. Links to data are off the bottom of the image. [larger version]

Two of the datasets were collected off Fire Island, the first in January–April 2012 to study the effects of storms on coastal erosion and how bathymetry (depth and shape of the seafloor) may function to redirect wave energy. (Read more about this work in “Collecting Ocean-Circulation and Sediment-Transport Data Offshore of Fire Island, New York,” Sound Waves, July/August 2012, and “Coastal Change Processes Project Data Report for Observations Near Fire Island, New York, January to April 2012,” USGS Open-File Report 2014–1159.) This experiment provided valuable information for comparison with data collected after Hurricane Sandy struck the region in October 2012.

The second experiment off Fire Island was conducted February–May 2014 to further study coastal processes that mobilize and transport sediment in the region. Data were collected in the same general area as the 2012 data but closer to shore. (See “Update on Oceanographic Study Offshore of Fire Island, New York,” Sound Waves, March/April 2014, and “Coastal Change Processes Project Data Report for Oceanographic Observations near Fire Island, New York, February through May 2014,” USGS Open-File Report 2015–1033.) This data collection was part of a larger effort by the USGS, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service, to study coastal processes on Fire Island and assess coastal change during storms.

Above: Tripods loaded on the deck of the research vessel Connecticut in preparation for deployment at Fire Island in 2014. From title page of “Coastal Change Processes Project Data Report for Oceanographic Observations Near Fire Island, New York, February through May 2014,” a report based on one of the recently published datasets. [larger version]

The projects in Barnegat Bay and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge were conducted to study circulation and light penetration in estuaries, and how these factors affect vegetation. The Chandeleur Islands and Dauphin Island experiments were conducted to measure wave heights and water levels during storms as part of the Barrier Island Evolution Research (BIER) project.

Data from these experiments, and many more, are on the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center’s “stellwagen” server in “U.S. Geological Survey Oceanographic Time-Series Data,” a USGS-approved online database of oceanographic time-series measurements recorded during scientific research projects conducted from 1975 to the present. Periods of data collection were typically one month to several years. The experiments commonly focused on observations near the seafloor, but most also obtained current-velocity data in the water column.

Above: A high-resolution flow tripod (Flobee) holding instrumentation to measure flow and sediment resuspension. USGS photograph by Sandra Brosnahan. From same report as vessel photograph, above. [larger version]

Exploring the Data

The main page of the database presents a list of experiments with their dates, organized by region. Each experiment name links to a page with a description of the project, the principal investigator(s), the duration of the experiment, and a map detailing the location of each platform (for example, see “Characterizing light attenuation and sediment resuspension in the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor estuary, New Jersey”). Also included on the experiment page are links to associated publications and field-activity entries (for example, see Field Activity Report 2013-050-FA ). 

Further details of the measurements collected at each site are available in a Google Earth .kml file or in links from a tabular catalog under the heading “Links to the Data.” All experiments have a “basic sampling interval” link to a catalog page describing the observations. Basic-sampling-interval data files contain data reported in the intervals at which they were sampled. Some experiment pages also provide a link to a catalog of all the data files converted to a common time base: hourly averages.

The catalog pages display a table describing the contents of each file: time, location, sample depth, and type of data (for example, see “Fluxes in Barnegat Bay”). Clicking on the filename in the leftmost column initiates downloading of the data file. Viewers such as ncBrowse allow easy viewing of the variables and structure of the files.

Nuts and Bolts

Data served on stellwagen go through a rigorous review and validation process before publication, as described in the database description document at http://woodshole.er.usgs.gov/pubs/of2007-1194/html/dataquality.html. The data are stored in Network Common Data Form (netCDF) files using the Equatorial Pacific Information Collection (EPIC) conventions defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Details about how netCDF is used in the data files are provided at “Network Common Data Format (NetCDF) Storage.” Select datasets have accompanying USGS Open-File Reports describing the research project.

Direct computer-to-computer access to the data files is provided via Unidata’s Thematic Realtime Environmental Distributed Data Services (THREDDS). THREDDS enables access via OPenDAP, WMS, SCS, and other methods.

Discovery by geoportals (webpages that collect information from different sources and provide a single point of access to the information) is enabled by using the attribute convention for dataset discovery (ACDD) in the ISO19115 metadata generated for each file. These records will also be harvested into the USGS Science Data Catalog in the second part of 2015, to become part of the broader list of government-supplied ocean data.

Stay Tuned

Additional datasets are added to the server as they pass the necessary quality-review steps. Data from several more experiments are in the pipeline as this article goes to press, so check the Oceanographic Time-Series Data website periodically to see what’s new.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Collecting Ocean-Circulation and Sediment-Transport Data Offshore of Fire Island, New York
July / August 2012
Update on Oceanographic Study Offshore of Fire Island, New York
March / April 2014
Advancing Ocean and Coastal Data Sharing Capabilities—USGS Scientist Receives 2014 DeSouza Award
Sept./Oct. 2014

Related Websites
U.S. Geological Survey Oceanographic Time-Series Data
Coastal Change Processes Project Data Report for Observations Near Fire Island, New York, January to April 2012
USGS Open-File Report 2014-1159
Barrier Island Evolution Research
Field Activity Report 2013-050-FA
Fluxes in Barnegat Bay
Data Validation
Network Common Data Form
Equatorial Pacific Information Collection
Thematic Realtime Environmental Distributed Data Services
Attribute Conventions Dataset Discovery
ISO 19115 Metadata
Science Data Catalog
Coastal Change Processes Project Data Report for Oceanographic Observations Near Fire Island, New York, February Through May 2014
USGS Open-File Report 2015-1033

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in this issue:

Virus Calculated as Culprit Killing Sea Stars

Scientific Portrait of the Largest Dam Removal in U.S. History

California Seafloor Mapping Program Reaches Milestone

Future Wave and Wind Effects on Pacific Islands

California’s Sea Otter Numbers Holding Steady

New USGS Research Vessel in the Great Lakes

Spotlight on Sandy
Five New USGS Oceanographic Datasets Published Online

Explore Coastal and Seafloor Images along U.S. Coasts

Getting Out of Harm’s Way—Evacuation from Tsunamis

USGS at the 2014 St. Petersburg Science Festival in Florida

Tribal GIS Training in the Northeast U.S.

Undamming Washington’s Elwha River—Public Lecture

Geologist Brian Atwater Receives Communications Award

Frozen Heat—New International Report on Methane Hydrates

Jan. / Feb. Publications

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