The Hydrographic Surveys Division coordinates Coast Survey’s activities that acquire data for updating NOAA’s nautical charts. This data is increasingly used for other scientific research and coastal activities, as well.
The division has four branches, employing physical scientists, cartographers and NOAA Corps Officers. They set hydrographic survey priorities, and ensure that the survey data meets the highest standards for precision and accuracy, as required by modern navigation systems.
Operations Branch sets priorities and manages surveys
NOAA faces the 21st century challenge to acquire more hydrographic data to satisfy a growing universe of stakeholders. The U.S. has nearly 3.5 million square nautical miles of coastal waters, and a complete survey of those waters would require 545 ship years and $5 billion just to acquire the data. To meet NOAA’s mandate to update the nation’s suite of almost 2,000 nautical charts (raster and vector) with modern survey data, and to maximize limited resources, the Operations Branch
Atlantic & Pacific Hydrographic Branches ensure accuracy of data
Once data is acquired by hydrographers, it must undergo substantial processing, both in the field and then in Coast Survey’s hydrographic branches, before it can be used to update today’s increasingly precise navigational charts. Coast Survey strives to reduce processing time while maintaining strict quality controls, in order to provide the nation’s mariners with accurate information as quickly as possible. Working alongside commercial and academic colleagues, the branches develop, test, and use new technology and processes that speed hydrographic data to NOAA cartographers.
Ensuring the highest degree of accuracy means aggressive review, verification and certification of hydrographic data. In order to sustain professional expertise throughout the process, starting at the very beginning of the data acquisition process on the water, the branches deploy expert hydrographers to survey vessels operated by NOAA Office of Marine and Aircraft Operations and to Coast Survey’s navigation response teams.
Data Acquisition and Control Branch archives and distributes information
NOAA, like all government agencies, faces ever tightening fiscal constraints. At the same time, researchers envision productive possibilities for understanding the ocean. As constraints and possibilities converge, multipurpose hydrographic surveys – for instance, collecting information for fish habitat research, or collecting the data that can support tsunami modeling, while acquiring data for chart making – makes efficient use of limited resources.
The Data Acquisition and Control Branch is Coast Survey’s focal point for archiving and distributing the hydrographic data that supports these multitudes of uses. Receiving hydrographic data from NOAA vessels or private surveyors is just the first step. This branch also
- distributes original records and copies to government agencies and other users
- ensures security and storage records in the National Archives’ Federal Records Centers
- works with NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center to archive and provide public access to digital survey data