Development of National Ocean Service Operational Forecast Systems based on the Regional Ocean Model System

NOAA and NOS have the mission and mandates to provide guidance and information to support navigation and coastal needs. To support this mission, NOS has been developing and implementing hydrodynamic model-based OFS for sea ports, estuaries, the Great Lakes, and coastal waters. An OFS consists of the automated integration of real-time observations, hydrodynamic model forecasts, product dissemination, and continuous quality control and monitoring.

All NOS OFS are implemented and operated within a NOS standardized functional framework called the Coastal Ocean Modeling Framework (COMF). COMF is a set of standards and tools for developing and maintaining NOS’s hydrodynamic model–based operational forecast systems. The goal of COMF is to provide a standard and comprehensive software infrastructure to enhance ease of use, performance, portability, and interoperability of NOS’s OFS. COMF will increase time-and-cost efficiency for OFS development, transition, operations and maintenance, while enabling the community-sharing of validated improvements and minimizing redundant parallel efforts. COMF allows OFS to directly access National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) data resources in the Central Computer System (CCS) data tanks, e.g. real-time observations of water levels, river discharge, meteorological parameters, etc., and NCEP operational and experimental forecast products such as RTMA, NAM, GFS, etc. The main functions of COMF include: (1) decoding/reformatting many kinds of NCEP products in different formats (e.g. GRIB, GRIB2, BUFR, and NetCDF); (2) two-step quality control processing for real-time observations; (3) horizontal and vertical interpolation; and (4) generating forcing files of surface meteorological forcing, river forcing, and lateral open boundary forcing for NOS’s OFS.

NOS has selected two core ocean models for development of NOS OFSs. One is the ROMS developed by Rutgers University for curvilinear structured model grid choice, and the other is the Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM) developed at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth (UMASSD) for unstructured model grid choice.

Three new NOS OFSs (Figure 1-3 show model grids) based the ROMS for the Chesapeake Bay (CBOFS), Delaware Bay (DBOFS), and Tampa Bay (TBOFS) on the NOAA/NCEP CCS have been developed to provide maritime community users with real-time operational products which include nowcasts and short-term forecast guidance of water levels, currents, water temperature, and salinity for the next 1 to 2 days.  These parameters are fundamental physical variables for other applications such as emergency response (e.g. oil spills; search and rescue) and ecological forecasting. ROMS will continue to be used for development of other NOS OFS in future.