Background – The Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) was founded in 2004 as one of the eleven Regional Associations (RAs) comprising the national Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), a program housed within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). IOOS finds it legal basis in the Integrated Coastal and Oceans Act of 2009, part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2009. The law calls for Regional Information Coordination Entities (RICEs) which are defined under Section 12303 as being synonymous with the Regional Associations. The task of the RAs is to “coordinate State, Federal, local, and private interests at a regional level with the responsibility of engaging the private and public sectors in designing, operating, and improving regional coastal and ocean observing systems in order to ensure the provision of data and information that meet the needs of user groups from the respective regions.” This concept grew out of the final report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which (Chapter 5) outlined and recommended the bottom-up regional approach to observing systems in considerable detail. The strategic plan presented here outlines how this approach will be implemented in one of the Regional Associations, the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System.
Vision Statement - CeNCOOS will be recognized by their constituency and the state and federal government as the definitive source of accurate, unbiased information on the health of the oceans along the central and northern California coast. This information will come from a variety of sensors, observing programs, and predictive models, be quality controlled and well integrated, and presented in a way which is useful and understandable to both ocean specialists and the general public.
Mission - CeNCOOS will provide the leadership and coordination necessary to develop the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) in central and northern California. The IOOS will improve understanding and monitoring of our oceans by implementing the observational framework necessary to monitor the state of the coastal waters in real time. The basic data and value-added products will be made available to all marine users and managers for the benefit of the public good and conservation of our resources.
Long-Term Goals - In conjunction with other Regional Associations, an understanding of ocean processes that cross geospatial boundaries will be realized. This information will provide the basis for a national plan for sustainable recreational and commercial use of the seas which will allow the health of the oceans to be improved and maintained for generations to come.
Basic Operating Principle – CeNCOOS will foster solid working relationships between scientists and end-users to establish and maintain the societal relevance of the work. These bonds will be forged by conducting face-to-face interviews, sponsoring workshops, collecting written surveys of user needs, responding to environmental emergencies, networking through CeNCOOS boards, working groups, and committees, and by addressing the needs established by the State of California’s Marine Life Protection Act, the California Ocean Protection Council, the West Coast Governor’s Agreement on Ocean Health, and the national IOOS program. CeNCOOS will then implement an appropriate observing strategy to address these end-user needs. A sustained (to be maintained indefinitely) observational presence in the coastal ocean is required in order to: a) provide baseline information by which to quantify change; b) capture large, transient, unpredictable, and important events; and c) facilitate breakthroughs in knowledge not possible without these long-term observations.
Governance structure – CeNCOOS has adopted a governance structure which meets the guidelines of the new legislation for designing, building, and implementing the observing system, providing fiduciary oversight, and guaranteeing national compliance while meeting the information needs of regional users. This governance structure is spelled out in detail in a separate document entitled the “CeNCOOS Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).” Briefly, the CeNCOOS Executive Director oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization, and is responsible to a Governing Council (GC) elected by the membership. The GC is advised by a Strategic Advisory Committee (SAC) comprised of present and potential end users, and a Technical Steering Committee (TSC) comprised of experts actually implementing the system. To insure a unified vision within the State of California, both these Committees are joint with the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System (SCCOOS). CeNCOOS also has a professional staff, core capability committees, and implementation/action committees who all aid in executing the CeNCOOS mission. For more information on the CeNCOOS governance structure, the reader is referred to the MOA.
System Implementation – The CeNCOOS regional observing system will be composed of four primary components: Sensors in the sea; a data management and communications (DMAC) system; data-assimilating numerical models; and information products for decision makers and end-users. The sensing system will be phased-in according to the CeNCOOS Conceptual Design, which is spelled out in detail in a separate document. The installation will build upon existing assets throughout the region by adding new sensors to existing stations and adding new stations to fill gaps in the present geospatial coverage. The DMAC will be comprised of a hierarchy of data assembly centers (DACs) and will be upward-compliant with the NOAA data integration framework (DIF). The CeNCOOS DMAC will make maximum use of modern distributed systems, network services, metadata standards, and common vocabularies. Nested numerical models at various scales will be used to make both short and long-term predictions of ocean conditions to the ecosystem level. The models will make maximum use of the real-time data streams flowing via the CeNCOOS DMAC, and the model output will likewise be immediately available to all.
Information Products - Products that convert raw data into useful information for informing decisions and addressing societal needs form the cornerstone for building CeNCOOS success. Products may be designed and built using data, model output, or both, combined and displayed in such a way that a particular feature of the ecosystem is highlighted and understandable. This is an ongoing process, but areas that have already been targeted for CeNCOOS product development include:
- Impacts of climate change on coastal communities and the nation
- Ecosystem-based management, including fisheries applications
- Sanctuary (federal) and Marine Protected Area (state) management
- Marine operations, transportation, and safety
- Coastal water quality, including Harmful Algal Blooms
- Education and outreach
- National security
- Ocean energy development
Hundreds of information products could be designed to address user needs in these areas. Product development will be prioritized according to the Basic Operating Principle described above.
Metrics for Success
- Deploy observing systems including both observations and modeling, as described in the CeNCOOS Conceptual Design
- Demonstrate the ability to operate around the clock 365 days per year
- Build and deploy the Data Management and Communications System (DMAC) to guarantee easy access to all CeNCOOS data sets and model output
- Produce information products and decision support tools that are in demand in the user community.
- Maximize system benefits through public education and outreach
- Impact science through presentations, technical reports, and journal publications