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NOAA Small Business Innovation Research FY2013

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Agency: Department of Commerce
Program/Year: SBIR / 2013
Solicitation Number: NOAA 2013-1
Release Date: January 4, 2013
Open Date: January 4, 2013
Close Date: March 4, 2013
9.1: Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies
Keywords: Coastal
9.1.1SG: Development of Technologies Related to Siting and Environmental Evaluation of Ocean and Coastal Renewable Energy Systems

The ocean and coastal zones of the United States contain reserves of potential energy that have not yet been tapped to meet the increasing demands of an energy-hungry nation.  Successfully tapping this energy will rely on more than just new energy harvest technologies – it will rely on the ability to site such projects in an environmentally sound way, and to assess the environmental impacts of such emplacements in a logical, efficient manner.


Project Goals: Projects should involve the development of innovative observing technologies that support siting decisions and/or evaluation of environmental impacts of renewable ocean energy technologies such as a) biofuels developed from microalgae or macroalgae, b) wave, c) tidal/current, d) geothermal, e) offshore/coastal wind, or f) ocean-thermal energy conversion.    NOAA is not interested in development of energy systems at this time.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Clearly identify need

·         Develop proof of concept


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Develop prototype

·         Test prototype

Keywords: energy, Environmental, renewable, Ocean, Coastal
9.1.2R,N: Unmanned Aircraft System-Borne Gravimeter

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) within NOS has a federal mandate to provide accurate positioning, including heights, to all federal non-military mapping activities in the USA.  The NOAA NGS leads the GRAV-D Project (Gravity for the Redefinition of the American Vertical Datum) with a specific goal to model and monitor Earth's geoid (a surface of the gravity field, very closely related to global mean sea level) to serve as a zero reference surface for all heights in the nation.  Accurate heights are critical information needed for better understanding of threats to low-lying communities and coastal ecosystems from inundation by storms, flooding, and/or sea level rise.  The GRAV-D Project has successfully utilized airborne gravimetry observations to collect highly precise gravity measurements throughout CONUS, Alaska, and their littoral regions.  However, more than 85% of the targeted surface area still needs to be economically surveyed, including portions of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Island holdings, and most of interior CONUS.


Project Goals: As Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) mature in flight capabilities and operational readiness, UAS provide a feasible alternative to manned airborne gravimetry missions.  Gravity data collection by manned aircraft can typically be categorized as very dull due to long, repetitive flight paths as the aircraft "mows the lawn" over a given data collection region.  These missions pose a safety challenge for pilots who must maintain concentration and focus during the mundane flight patterns.  UAS can also offer fuel savings over comparable manned aircraft, leading to more energy efficient data collection, and quicker survey completion because of the long endurance of the platform.


The NOAA UAS Program is partnering with the GRAV-D Project to explore cost and operationally feasible UAS observing strategies for gravity data collection.  We request a Phase I study to demonstrate the design feasibility of an airborne gravimeter suitable for autonomous data collection onboard a low or medium altitude long endurance UAS operating in turbulent environments.  The design of the system must describe the detailed system interface between the UAS and gravimeter payload, including power, navigation, and data communication systems.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables: The purpose of this Phase I is to determine the technical feasibility of the proposed research and the quality of performance of the small business concern receiving an award.  We request a Phase I study to demonstrate the design feasibility of an airborne gravimeter suitable for autonomous data collection onboard a low or medium altitude long endurance UAS operating in turbulent environments.  The design of the system must:


1.    Identify a UAS platform (Predator Band IKHANA are promising candidates),

2.    Identify a gravimeter payload suitable for gravimetric geoid modeling,

3.    Describe the detailed system interface between the UAS and gravimeter payload,

4.    Describe the power, navigation, and data communication sub-systems,

5.    Provide a cost analysis for Phase II and future operational system.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables: Phase II will be the Research & Development (R&D) and prototype development phase which will require:


1.    Comprehensive proposal outlining the research in detail,

2.    New technology flight demonstration of proposed UAS/GRA V-D system (small business may request government owned equipment in this phase),

3.    Delivery of the prototype design including drawings,

4.    Plan to commercialize the final product,

5.    A company presentation to the SBIR panel.

Keywords: UAS, Aircraft, unmanned, gravimeter, GRAV-D
9.1.3N: Bathymetric Radar

The U.S. marine transportation system moves $10 trillion of cargo and 95 percent of our international trade (by weight) annually.  In an intricate dance, mariners use nautical charts with decades-old depth measurements, annual tidal data interpolated from distant stations, and rules-of-thumb to estimate the amount of safe water when navigating supertankers and mega-container ships.  Often ships have only inches of clearance from the seabed.  The uncertainties of this process put the safety of navigation and of our environment at risk from groundings and collisions.


A growing and credible body of scientific research has established that it is possible to measure water depths in real time using X-band radars.  This research validates that the dispersion relation from fluid mechanics directly relates wave speed to water depth in the marine environment.  Further research establishes that wave speeds can be measured using inexpensive and common marine X-band radar.  Innovation is now needed to apply and couple these 2 results to measure water depths in real time with a precision, accuracy, and resolution suitable for navigation use.


Bathymetric radar would revolutionize hydrographic surveying and marine navigation, ensuring that critical navigation lanes are monitored continuously rather than at discrete intervals.  It could eliminate groundings and delays caused by today’s uncertain bathymetry.  Further, it could permit NOAA to get more for the $100M it spends annually on surveying and charting and contribute to reducing our surveying backlog including the massive new requirements in the Arctic.


Project Goals: 

The short term goals of this project are:

·         Develop algorithms that can receive and process signals from commercial X-band radars and produce a continuous stream of accurate water depth measurements, over a large area, in real time;

·         Measure the precision, accuracy, and resolution in both location and depth of the resulting  depth measurements to establish any limitations to their use and their adequacy for navigation purposes; and

·         Determine the maximum and minimum depths to which the technique can measure.


The long term goals of this project are:

·         Produce robust versions of the algorithms, reduced to software that can be used by NOAA, port and harbor authorities, and other agencies to measure water depth in real time so as to be able to provide that information to ships for safe navigation.

·         Develop a complete commercial system incorporating the software and which is suitable for permanent deployment in ports and harbors to monitor water depth.

·         Generalize the algorithms and software so they can be included in any marine X-band radar, including those already aboard ship, to give them real time water depth measurement of their own with look-ahead capability.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Starting with existing scientific research results, produce algorithms to compute water depth and position from X-band radar signals.

·         Using the algorithms and a commercial X-band radar, experimentally measure the precision, accuracy, depth and position resolution, and maximum and minimum depths achieved.

·         Compare the achieved results with the existing national standards for hydrographic surveys and nautical charts.

·         Deliver the results as a professional-level report.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Based on the results of Phase I, develop software capable of being used in a production environment to measure water depths from a single brand/model of X-band radar.  Note:  This software may be run on remote computers.
  • Design and fabricate a prototype system incorporating the software and including the radar, interfaces, and processing capability.
  • Produce operator and maintenance manuals sufficient to operate and sustain the prototype system.  Include documentation of the algorithm(s) being used so that subsequent field use of the system can be thoroughly understood.
  • Perform field tests using the prototype demonstrating its ability to achieve or exceed the precision, accuracy, depth and position resolution, and maximum and minimum depths reported in Phase I.
  • Deliver a professional level report documenting the results of the field tests.
  • At NOAA’s option, deliver the prototype, documentation, and familiarization training sufficient for NOAA to perform more exhaustive field tests.
Keywords: MARINE, navigation, Radar, bathymetric, hydrographic, surveying
 McNinch, Jesse and Brodie, Katherine; “Shallow-water bathymetry measurements during storm events using Bar and Swash Imaging Radar (BASIR), A MOBILE x-BAND RADAR”; U.S. Hydro '2009 Conference, May 11-14, 2009;
 Bell, P.S.; “Shallow water bathymetry derived from an analysis of X-band marine radar images of waves”; Coastal Engineering; 37 (1999); pp. 513-527.
 “Use of ground based radar in hydrography”; Marine Biodiversity Wiki;
 Holland, Todd K.; “Application of the Linear Dispersion Relation with Respect to Depth Inversion and Remotely Sensed Imagery”; IEEE Transactions on GeoScience and Remote Sensing; Vol. 39, No. 9; September 2001.
9.2: Healthy Oceans
Keywords: Ocean
9.2.1F: Automated Image Analysis for Fisheries Applications

Video and Image recording systems are increasingly being used by NMFS for a multitude of applications.  Underwater systems are deployed on or near the seafloor or towed above the seafloor to record images of fish that are later analyzed to estimate numbers, sizes, and species composition of fish in an area.  Underwater systems are also installed in trawls to collect images that can be used to determine numbers, sizes, and species of fish caught in the trawl with the end goal of developing non-destructive trawls that collect all necessary information without actually catching the fish.  Other systems are installed on commercial fishing vessels to monitor what fish are caught, kept, and discarded during fishing operations.  The effort required to analyze data from these systems is time consuming and expensive.   Computer automated analysis to identify fish species contained in an image sequence or video segment has been moderately successful in very controlled photographic conditions when the potential number of species in the images is limited to just a few.  Fish lengths are successfully measured using stereo camera systems but require significant manual input by an analyst.  There is a need for innovative approaches to automated recognition and counting of fish species and estimation of length of fish in the images collected by these systems.


Project Goals:  The long term goal is to automate analysis of video and/or image sequences for two focal areas [(1) live fish underwater and (2) captured fish on vessels] to reduce the labor required to produce numerical data from the video or image sequences.  Each focal area presents a number of technical challenges.  Underwater images are frequently required to make use of ambient light to avoid influencing fish behavior and the resulting images are usually low contrast.  Fish in these images may be viewed from any aspect and distance from the camera.  Accurate counting of these fish requires tracking each individual during the time it is in the camera view to avoid counting one fish multiple times.  In contrast, captured fish could be imaged using artificial light at a fixed range but may (on a conveyor belt, for example) be positioned in any orientation in close proximity to, or partially obscured by, other fish.  Some fish species exhibit multiple color phases underwater and most fish change color and appearance with time after capture.  Successful projects will produce either software or hardware/software systems, applicable to one or more of these scenarios, that accept or collect sequences of images and count the number and sizes of each fish species present in the images.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:  This section should list the specific activities that will be carried out during the Phase I award.  It should also list the expected deliverables that must be met to address the project goals.  Phase I is the feasibility study.   Activities and deliverables should be written in bullet form.


For focal areas 1 (live fish underwater) and/or 2 (captured fish on vessels):


  • Identify potentially quantifiable features of commercially important and frequently encountered fish species occurring in the southeast US Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico that can be used for automated classification such as shape and color patterns.
  • Develop and demonstrate capability to automate data collection, potentially including but not necessarily limited to:

o   Identification of images or segments of video when fish are present

o   Species classification

o   Species-specific metrics of abundance and individual sizes

o   Habitat characteristics

  • Quantify error associated with data generated (e.g., proportion of fish correctly identified to species; degree of error about abundance or size estimates).  Demonstrate level of repeatability of results across multiple users
  • Deliverable: a detailed report documenting methods and results, with discussion of results and identification of successes and remaining challenges


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:  (Same format as for Phase I.)  Phase II is the prototype development stage and where the majority of the R&D takes place.


For focal areas 1 (live fish underwater) and/or 2 (captured fish on vessels):


·         Develop one or more transferable software packages / platforms with user-friendly interface to accomplish data processing capabilities developed during Phase I activities

·         Products should allow improvement in species classification performance through incorporation of new training data and information on additional species.

·         Products should allow analyst intervention/correction in instances where confidence in species identification is low.

·         Desired analysis results include:

o   Individual fish length measurements and species identifications

o   Summary information on species composition and length distributions collected over multiple image sequences

o   Confidence intervals associated with individual species identifications and length measurements within a sequence and summary statistics for analysis of multiple sequences.

·         Deliverable: software package(s) / platform(s)

Keywords: image, video, recording, fisheries
 NOAA Annual Guiding Memorandum - November 2011
9.2.2F: Improving Environmental Sustainability and Competitiveness of U.S. Marine Aquaculture

The purpose of this subtopic is to develop innovative products and services to support thedevelopment of an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable marineaquaculture industry in the a way that is compatible with healthy marineecosystems and other users of coastal and ocean resources.As marine aquaculture technology moves from research to operations, aquacultureproducers need affordable and reliable techniques, products,and services to support growth andeconomic viability of sustainable aquaculture operations. There is also a need forreliable and affordable equipment, instruments, tools and techniques to assess the potential risks and benefits of marine aquaculture facilities and to monitorany impacts of marine aquaculture operations on marine ecosystems.

NOAA’s mission includes enabling sustainable marine aquaculture to maximize economic and social benefits and provide safe seafood. Enabling the development of sustainable marine aquaculture figures prominently in NOAA’s Next Generation Strategic Plan and in NOAA’s recent new Policy for Marine Aquaculture (currently in draft form and awaiting final release after public comment). The three areas of focus for SBIR grants in aquaculture this year closely align with these guiding principles. They are:

1.    Alternative feeds

2.    Improved health management

3.    Novel production technologies and techniques


1.        Alternative feeds


Summary:  Currently available aquafeeds are highly dependent on fish meal and fish oils.  These cost of fish meal and fish oil has increased dramatically in recent years, reducing profit margins in finfish aquaculture operations.  In addition, some question whether the forage fish from which fish oil and meal are derived can continue to be sustainably managed as demand for aquafeeds continues to increase.  New diets and ingredients are needed which successfully replace these marine components with non-traditional sources of protein and oils that result in sustainable and economical feeds.  There is a need to meet the nutritional requirements of marine species in all life stages (from hatchery to market size), including use of diets that rely less on fish oil and fish meal without sacrificing the human health benefits of seafood consumption.


Project Goals:  Develop aquafeeds that successfully replace fish meal and fish oils with novel ingredients from sustainable sources, including  biological or chemical methods for de novo production of  long chain n-3 fatty acids and/or high value nutritional products from marine algae.  Reduce the “fish in, fish out” ratio for cultured species.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:  Research and development geared towards the development of sustainable replacements for fish meal and fish oils in aquafeeds, or the development means to produce fish meal and oil from seafood byproducts (e.g. fish trimmings).


Deliverables include reports from trials of the proposed diets showing biological and economic feasibility of the new feeds.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:  Prototype pilot-scale trials of the products developed in phase I showing biological and economic feasibility of the feeds under commercial conditions.


2.        Improved health management


Summary:  Disease is one of the main causes of losses in aquaculture operations. Transmission of disease from wild to farmed animals and vice versa is also a concern in aquaculture operations.  Better therapeutants and techniques are needed to prevent, diagnose, and manage diseases in aquaculture operations.


Project Goals:  Develop improved products and tools for preventing, diagnosing, and controlling disease in marine aquaculture operations.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:  Execute research and development of preventive measures, vaccines, diagnostic tools, and other management techniques for marine aquatic diseases that impact aquaculture operations.  Report to show promise for commercial application of such techniques.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:  Prototype trials of the techniques and products developed in phase I showing biological and economic feasibility under commercial conditions.


3.        Novel production technologies and techniques


Summary:  As U.S. aquaculture develops to fill the gap between domestic demand and supply, new technologies and techniques are needed to help the industry develop in a sustainable way.  Sustainable production and management technologies and techniques complement the improved feeds and health management focus areas.


Project Goals:  Development of improved aquaculture technologies and techniques and management measures for raising marine organisms to market size in land-based, coastal, and in open-ocean grow-out facilities with careful monitoring, minimizing, and mitigating of environmental impacts.  Examples of projects considered under this focus area include projects to develop technologies and techniques related to:  production of fish, shellfish, and marine algae in hatcheries; evaluation and selection of appropriate sites for marine aquaculture operations and prevent or reduce effluents and escapes from facilities; and engineering technologies (e.g. cage designs, moorings, cleaning and feeding systems).


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:  Research and develop improved aquaculture techniques and management measures for raising marine organisms in a sustainable way. Report to show promise for commercial application of such techniques.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:  Prototype trials of the techniques and products developed in phase I showing biological and economic feasibility under commercial conditions.

Keywords: Aquaculture, MARINE, sustainability
 Nash, C.E., 2004. Achieving Policy Objectives to Increase the Value of the Seafood Industry in the United States: The Technical Feasibility and Associated Constraints. Food Policy 29, 621-641.
 National Marine Fisheries Service, 2007. Summary of the National Marine Aquaculture Summit. Available at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2007.
 NOAA 10 Year Plan for Marine Aquaculture available at
 The Future of Aquafeeds. Michael B. Rust, Fredric T. Barrows, Ronald W. Hardy, Andrew Lazur, Kate Naughten, and Jeffrey Silverstein (2010). NOAA/USDA Alternative Feeds Initiative.
 NOAA Annual Guiding Memorandum - November 2011
9.3: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation
Keywords: climate
9.3.1R,C: Climate Impact Visualization Tools/Toolbox for City/Town Planning and Outreach

Small and medium-sized towns and cities need access to actionable information on local climate change impacts to better understand and visualize climate impacts on their jurisdictions, enhance their ability to visualize and show climate-related risks and impacts to their constituents and their governing bodies, send and receive real-time communications to and from their constituents in a timely manner, and use all the gathered information to improve planning and decision-making.


Large cities such as New York City and Chicago have staff devoted to studying and communicating climate impacts in their jurisdictions.  These cities have climate adaptation plans and have projects aimed at adapting infrastructure and social systems to a changing climate.  Smaller jurisdictions lack the resources and the expertise for similar activities, yet they face similar risks and challenges.


Funding will be used to develop new and innovative climate visualization tools and/or toolboxes containing virtual tools in response to these jurisdictional needs.  These tools will improve jurisdictions’ ability to understand, plan for and adapt to climate variability and change and will also ensure that they have an ability to communicate data and information in a timely manner, even during natural disasters when conventional means of communications become unavailable due to gridlock or system overload.


There are a variety of freely available climate impact visualization tools available (e.g.,,,  However there is a need to better integrate these existing data visualization tools with the mapping and planning tools that local planners currently use, in order to make climate information useful for actionable local decision-making.


Project Goals:  In the last decade, there has been an increased awareness and understanding of global, regional, and local-scale impacts of climate variability and change.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. government, through national climate assessments, have alerted the public that we will continue to see changes in our climate through more intense precipitation and temperature-related weather and climate events as well as longer droughts and more devastating floods.  Those living in coastal areas are also more aware of the potential for a rising sea and many have personally witnessed increased storm surges.


Increasingly, local municipal authorities realize that they need to make plans to cope with and adapt to these changes, and a number of organizations and federal agencies have begun to provide tools and services to support this planning.  For example, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) is studying how to best provide information on drought; and the NOAA Coastal Services Center has a number of tools for coastal planners on their website (e.g.,,,


However, these planning tools and services are not always integrated effectively or used optimally because local planners may not: (a) be aware the tools exist, (b) know what information they need, and where or how to access it, (c) have information at a usable spatial or temporal scale, and/or (d) have skills needed to use or manipulate the tools.


The goal of this project is to develop new and innovative climate visualization tools and/or toolboxes that help local urban planners understand and plan for ongoing and future climate impacts.  Included in the scope of this project is a guaranteed ability for local government official and decision makers to send and receive communications to and from their constituents in a very timely manner (within seconds) during weather- and climate-related disasters and extreme events.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·      Identify a sector to target tool

·      Evaluate existing tools and websites used by city and urban planners

·      Work with advisory board to assess needs for tools

·      Develop list of modules and parameters that are necessary for visualization tool or toolbox (with help of advisory board) – some potential sections might include (but are not limited to) direct links to other cities’ plans, the ability to produce a briefing packet for outreach, ability to analyze discreet problems and suggestions for adaptation strategies

·      List all input parameters

·      Identify any information or data that will require significant manipulation for inclusion in tool

·      Identify robust communication pathways or networks that will remain viable even during times of “bandwidth gridlock”; characterize the database and transmission protocols that will be needed; and describe any programming and/or integration work that will be necessary.

·      Complete a work plan and design for prototype visualization tool or toolbox.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Develop prototype visualization tool or toolbox with help of person knowledgeable in communication of information
  • Test tool with advisory board or local jurisdiction
  • Revise tool after testing
  • Test tool with another jurisdiction
  • Revise accordingly, develop production-ready prototype
  • Identify professional organizations and trade magazines in which to market tool, as part of overall market strategy
  • Demonstrate proof-of-concept tools and network that ensures very timely communications will remain viable even during times of conventional telecommunication “gridlock.”
Keywords: impact, Visualization, climate
9.3.2W: Detection and Evidence Collection of Climate Buoy Vandalism

NOAA climate buoy arrays in the equatorial Pacific have seen increasing incidences of vandalism which reduce buoy data availability leaving gaps in critical climate observation data.  In particular, fishing boats frequently damage climate buoys and/or damage buoy moorings by using “slingshot” fishing techniques which put undue stress on buoy moorings that may cause mooring failures.  In addition, vandals often remove solar panels, batteries, and electronics, or buoy superstructure metal for salvage.


NOAA is seeking the capability to detect attempts at vandalism or intrusions on its climate buoys and a means to deter, dissuade, or preclude vandalism, “sling shot” fishing using buoys, or other interference with climate observation buoys.  A variety of methods might be employed to mitigate vandalism on NOAA buoys that include:  detection of buoy bumping, pulling or other disturbances to trigger defensive responses or evidence capture; detection of the presence of vessels near buoys and/or detection of the presence of people boarding buoys; deterrence of buoy boarding; deterrence of buoy “sling shot” fishing.  In addition, it is desired to capture photographic and other evidence to identify either vessels or individuals engaged in buoy vandalism, storing the evidence for later retrieval and/or real-time transmission of this evidence.


Because of limited space and power availability on climate buoys,  a system for detection/recording of evidence of vandalism would be a self-powered, stand-alone system that would not require changes to climate buoy design, have sufficient power and recording or reporting capacity to last for a minimum of 1 year and up to 2 years, limit size and weight to the capability of the buoy to host the device, be easy to maintain and replace in the field while operating from small service vessels, survive a marine environment, and be relatively low cost.


Project Goals: 

  • Conceptual design of a prototype system to detect, deter, and collect evidence of vandalism attempts to NOAA climate buoys


  • Design, develop prototype system


  • Perform laboratory testing of prototype system


  • Build and field test at least two prototype systems for detection, deterrence, and collection of evidence of vandalism attempts to NOAA climate buoys


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Review of climate buoy power, size, and weight limitations as pertaining to potential Anti-vandalism detection and evidence collection systems.  Deliverable:  Summary report of buoy power, size, and weight limitations.


  • Review of potential technologies for vandalism detection, vandalism deterrence, and vandalism evidence collection, storage, and real-time transmission.  Deliverable:  Report detailing potential technologies for addressing vandalism detection, deterrence, and evidence collection, storage and transmission


  • Conceptual design of self-powered system for detection, deterrence, and evidence collection, storage and real-time transmission of vandalism on climate buoys.  Deliverables:  Design review, block diagrams, prototype schematics, drawings, and prototype hardware mock-up.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Complete design of production prototype system.  Deliverables: Critical design review, production prototype schematics, drawings, and draft system documentation.


  • Fabrication of 4 each prototype systems.  Deliverables:  4 each prototype systems ready to install on climate buoys, final draft of system documentation, laboratory testing of prototype systems, and report on system laboratory testing.


  • Installation of at least two systems on NOAA climate buoy for field testing for a 1 year period.  Deliverables: System installation, installation and activation procedures for field personnel, and report on test results at the end of test period.
Keywords: buoy, climate, vandalism, evidence
 World Meteorological Organization, Data Buoy Cooperation Panel, “Vandalism on Data Buoys,”
 Dr. C.C. Teng, et. al, Buoy Vandalism Experienced by NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center, Presentation to the 25th session of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel, IOC of UNESCO,
9.4: Weather-Ready Nation
Keywords: weather
9.4.1D: Low-Cost High Frequency Passive Microwave Radiometer for Ground Measurements

Passive microwave sensors are key sensor payloads on many operational satellites, including those operated by NOAA and EUMETSAT – the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) and the Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS).  Over the past decade, satellite-based high frequency measurements at and above 150 GHz (including those near the 183 GHz water vapor absorption band) have become extremely useful for the retrieval of several parameters, including precipitation rate and snowpack properties.  In order to advance our understanding of the relationship between these parameters and the emitting microwave energy (and to advance radiative transfer model development), a sensor that can be used on the ground (either pointing upward or downward) which takes measurements at these high frequencies needs to be developed – presently, such sensors typically make measurements at 90 GHz or lower. 


Project Goals:  It is envisioned that the prototype sensor would work off of the design of an existing instrument and potentially have a full complement of measurements spanning the range of 10 – 190 GHz (i.e., have channels that are comparable to existing or future planned microwave sensors such as the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) and the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI)). As such, a prototype sensor is envisioned for Phase I whereas a fully operational instrument with the following attributes would be produced during Phase II:


(1)  Dual Polarization:  Ice crystals scatter and depolarize microwave radiation depending on particle size and observation frequency (Matzler, 1984; Hewison et al., 1999).  Emission and scattering of snow depends on depth, density, morphology and liquid water content.  Polarized microwave observations can provide this important information.

(2)  Upward- and downward-looking Mobility:  Upward for liquid cloud water path retrieval (for cloud and precipitation, downward for simultaneous cloud liquid water path and surface emissivity retrievals.

(3)  Scanning ability:  Cross-track sensors such as AMSU, MHS and ATMS  view the earth at varying angles.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Prototype radiometer design and test data

·         Deliverable – Working model with at least some of the requested attributes


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Development of full working radiometer with required measurement bands, polarizations, scanning geometry

·         Test data sets documenting instrument performance under a variety of meteorological and surface conditions

·         Deliverable – Fully functional instrument

Keywords: Sensors, microwave, radiometer, measurement
 Hewison, T. J., and English, S. J.,1999: Airborne retrievals of snow and ice surface emissivity at millimeter wavelengths, IEEE Trans. Geosci. Rem. Sens., 37, 1871-1879.
 Matzler, C., 1994: Passive microwave signatures of landscapes in winter. Meteor. Atmos. Phys., 54, 241-260.
9.4.2R,D.W: Developing Mobile VHF Lightning Mapping Technology

Lightning observations have many meteorological applications, which are continuously expanding as lightning detection technology improves.  Lightning detection networks monitor the low (LF), very-low (VLF), and very-high (VHF) frequency radiation emitted by lightning flashes.  Since cloud-to-ground (CG) flashes emit most strongly in the LF and VLF range, LF/VLF networks can detect a fraction of CG flashes globally with as few as 50 sensors.  However, intra-cloud (IC) lightning is more closely related to updraft intensity than CG lightning, making it more beneficial for diagnosing severe convection.  IC flashes emit most strongly in the VHF range, which propagates along a line of site and attenuates quickly, requiring a dense network of sensors to provide 3-D lightning observations within relatively small geographical regions.  Although Lightning Mapping Array (LMA; Rison et al. 1999) networks currently provide valuable information, their fixed locations limit the number and variety of storm environments that can be sampled.  Therefore, this proposal seeks to develop VHF lightning mapping technology that can be transported to remote regions (e.g., deep oceans and field campaign locations), deployed quickly, and operated remotely.  This new tool must leverage existing lightning detection technologies and recent field campaigns that have proven the value of unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) for observing thunderstorms. 


Project Goals:  It is expected that this technology will be used to better diagnose and predict extreme weather during future field campaigns and significant weather events, and also for validation of future space-borne lightning detection technologies (e.g., GOES-R Geostationary Lightning Mapper; GLM).  Several LMA networks are currently being deployed, which demonstrates the value of these 3-D lightning observations.  Recent field campaigns also have expended considerable effort to deploy LMA networks to Sao Paulo, Brazil and Northern Colorado.   The proposed tool would reduce the amount of effort required to deploy LMA networks for future field campaigns, and will lessen the need to deploy static LMA networks when they are only needed for significant events (e.g., rocket launches from government or private facilities).  VHF lightning observations from an aerial platform will reduce contamination from RF sources on the ground, and provide IC detection capabilities over a larger geographical area than present ground-based LMA networks.  The new technology also should include video observations to help understand how the amount of light leaving the cloud is related to both the intensity of lightning and amount/type of precipitation inside a cloud.  Outside of the present LMA domains (e.g., over the oceans), no technology currently exists to evaluate the quality of space-borne IC lightning observations relative to ground-based measurements.  Thus, this new technology will provide a valuable tool for validating the lightning observations provided by the GLM outside of the present LMA domains.  Once proven, the overall approach could be expanded upon to include different sensors and scientific objectives.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Identify VHF lightning detection technologies that are suitable for use aboard a small UAS
  • Examine potential aerial platforms that can house this sensor suite (e.g., VHF, GPS, video)
  • Determine the best option for flying multiple UASs in tandem
  • Identify methods for communication between individual sensors and a central hub


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Incorporate lightning detection equipment into an UAS
  • Develop navigation and communication systems
  • Deploy a prototype network
  • Validate the new technology relative to an existing LMA network
Keywords: mapping, weather, lightning, VHF, cloud
 Rison, W., R. J. Thomas, P. R. Krehbiel, T. Hamlin, and J. Harlin, 1999: A GPS-based three dimensional lightning mapping system: Initial observations in central New Mexico. Geophys. Res. Lett., 26, 3573–3576.
9.4.3W: Delivering a Solar Flare Forecast Model that Improves Flare Forecast (Timing and Magnitude) Accuracy by 25%

The Nation’s critical infrastructure and economy are increasingly susceptible to the impacts of space weather. Leadership at the highest levels of government, including DHS, DoD, and the White House, are involved in efforts to prepare and respond to severe space weather outbreaks.  Nearly all major space weather storms are associated with major solar flares.  And yet, the ability to forecast solar flares is currently limited to qualitative assessment of sunspots.  There has been little advance in operational flare forecasting techniques in more than 20 years.  Customers are requesting more accurate flare forecasts with multiple hour lead-times allowing them to plan and adjust their systems and operations to impending space weather impacts.


New observations from NASA sensors such as the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) and Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) on the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite provide new insight into the internal workings of the sun.  These and other measurements have resulted in a number of new scientific techniques and discoveries that could provide improvement over the current flare forecasting technique.  Moving these research discoveries into operational forecasting tools and models could greatly improve flare forecasts. 


Project Goals:  The goal of this activity would be to develop a model or technique for improving the multi-hour and multi-day forecasts of solar flare eruptions. 


Initial work would be applied towards developing an improved model and/or assessing model performance against observations.  Some of these techniques may require fairly complex computational modeling and data processing.  The performance of a model would need to be established by comparing with current flare forecasting accuracy.  The value and viability of a model would need to be assessed based on performance, reliability, and computational complexity.  These techniques would need to be tested and refined with the goal of running a model in real-time to provide forecasts.  The results of initial research would be the development of a new model or technique and/or the evaluation of several models based on model performance metrics. 


Later work would be required to begin the transition of the selected research model into operations.  This work would involve further testing and validation of the model performance, the development of model outputs and products, and the development of the model itself to improve performance and reliability.


Possible commercial applications would include the use of a flare forecast by a small business to provide tailored products for specific end users such as commercial airlines and emergency managers.  


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:



·         Model development

·         Model performance evaluation and testing

·         Model operational concept development

·         Proof of concept testing

·         Validation and verification of results

·         Feasibility assessment development



·         Model performance statistics

·         Prototype of operational model

·         Implementation feasibility assessment


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:  



·         Concept implementation and product development

·         Product expansion and tailored outputs for specific user groups



·         Prototype Solar Flare Forecast model to be evaluated for possible transition to operations.   This should include the prototype software for data ingest, data processing, and the development of intermediate products used for forecasting solar flares.

Keywords: solar, weather, space, flares, storms, forecast