Category Archives: Oceans

National Hurricane Center’s Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook for 2 Days and 5 Days, as of June 20, 2017; Updated 6/21/17 with Information on Tropical Storm Cindy

As of June 20, 2017, Tropical Storm Bret was in the Caribbean Sea just north of Venezuela and was predicted to move westward toward Central America through Thursday, June 22.  Bret is the second named storm for 2017 in the Atlantic basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico).  At the same time, Potential Tropical Cyclone Three (an area of tropical disturbance that is the potential precursor of a tropical cyclone) was present in the Gulf of Mexico and was expected to develop into a tropical storm within 48 hours and make landfall in Louisiana or Texas by June 22.  [Update 6/21/17 –   Shown below are the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) two-day and five-day graphical tropical weather outlooks, as of the morning of June 20, accessed at

Update 6/21/17 – On June 20, Potential Tropical Cyclone Three intensified into Tropical Storm Cindy.  As of the morning of June 21, Cindy was expected to make landfall along the Louisiana or Texas coast late on June 21 or early on June 22, bringing heavy rainfall and flash flooding.  A satelitte photo of Cindy as of about 8 a.m. EDT on June 21 is shown below.

Two-day outlook June 20Five day outlook June 20

Cindy June 21

Tropical Storm Cindy in the Gulf of Mexico approaching landfall in Louisiana/Texas, 6/21/17, 8:15 a.m. EDT.  Photo taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Web site at, on 6/21/17, 9:15 a.m. EDT.

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook Released on May 25, 2017, Predicting 11 to 17 Named Storms

The Atlantic hurricane season (including the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico) runs from June 1 to November 30, with August to October the usual period of peak activity.   On May 25, 2017, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its outlook for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.   The news release on the forecast is available online at  The full forecast report is available online at

The outlook is a collaboration of the Climate Prediction Center, the National Hurricane Center, and the Hurricane Research Division, all within NOAA.

According to the news release, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.  The outlook also estimated a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).  On average from 1966 through 2009, the Atlantic basin has averaged 11 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, with two major hurricanes, according to the National Hurricane Center’s “Tropical Cyclone Climatology” Web page,  One named storm already occurred in 2017: Tropical Storm Arlene, in April.

NOAA’s full outlook report makes the following cautions about predicted storm numbers: The outlook is “a general guide to the expected overall nature of the upcoming hurricane season; [the outlook] is not a seasonal hurricane landfall forecast, and it does not predict levels of activity for any particular region.   Hurricane disasters can occur whether the season is active or relatively quiet.   It only takes one hurricane (or tropical storm) to cause a disaster.  Residents, businesses, and government agencies of coastal and near-coastal regions are urged to prepare for every hurricane season regardless of this, or any other, seasonal outlook.”

During the season, reports on individual storms as they occur will be available at  When storms are completed, reports on individual 2016 storms (including tracks) will be available online at

National Hurricane Center averages for the Atlantic season for the period 1981-2010 are 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. Here are the numbers for the past five years:
2016 – 15 named storms, 4 of which became hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes;
2015 – 11 named storms, 4 of which became hurricanes, including 2 major hurricanes;
2014 – 8 named storms, 6 of which became hurricanes, including 2 major hurricanes;
2013 – 13 named storms, 2 of which became hurricanes;
2012 – 19 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes, including 1 major hurricane.

For Water Central News Grouper posts reviewing recent Atlantic tropical storm seasons, please see the following links: 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012.

Also on May 27, 2016, NOAA issued its outlook for the Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific basins.  That report is available online at  For both basins, NOAA estimates an 80-percent chance of a near- or above-normal season.  The eastern Pacific outlook calls for a 70-percent probability of 14 to 20 named storms (6 to 11 hurricanes, including 3 to 7 major hurricanes). The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70-percent probability of 5 to 8 tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes).

Hurricane tracks 2016National Hurricane Center’s graph of the tracks of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes in 2016, accessed at

Healthy and Safe Swimming Information Sources – May 2017 Edition

Following is a list of information sources for healthy and safe swimming.  This list was published on May 22, 2017, by the Virginia Water Monitoring Council (VWMC), with financial support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Virginia Department of Health .  More information on the VWMC is available online at; or contact Jane Walker at

Please feel free to re-distribute this information.  If you forward this announcement or post it to your Web site, please let the VWMC know so that the information can be reported it to the funders; to do so, please email:

1.) Healthy and Safe Swimming WeekMay 22-28, 2017

The week before Memorial Day marks the thirteenth annual Healthy and Safe Swimming Week. Nationwide, communities will be collaborating and engaging in discussion about how to maximize the health benefits of water-based physical activity while minimizing the risk of recreational water–associated illness and injury. Together, swimmers, aquatics and beach staff, residential pool owners, and public health officials can prevent the spread of germs by following easy and effective healthy swimming steps which can be found at

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site has promotional materials (brochures, buttons & banners, fact sheets, infographics, podcasts, posters, mobile apps, social media library, stories, and videos) to educate the public on healthy swimming practices.  To learn more, see:  (Please see #5 below for more resources from the CDC.)

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is promoting Healthy and Safe Swimming Week and is providing a media and messaging toolkit at  A statewide press release will soon be available at

2.) Beach Monitoring in Virginia

Bacteria levels in coastal beach water are monitored weekly at 46 public beaches on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean of Virginia during the swimming season (May-September).

Water samples are collected weekly by Local Health Departments and analyzed by local laboratories for enterococci bacteria. If bacteria levels exceed Virginia’s Water Quality Standard of 104 colony forming units (cfu)/100 mL of water, a swimming advisory is issued. Enterococci bacteria serve as an indicator for fecal contamination in salt and brackish waters. These organisms are not harmful themselves, but indicate that other potentially harmful organisms may be present. High levels of enterococci bacteria indicate an increased health risk to recreational water users.

Follow VDH’s Beach Monitoring Program on Twitter to receive a notification for swimming advisories

For information about current swimming advisories and monitored beaches, beach advisory and monitoring data, links to local beaches, local health department contacts, special projects, and our new Coastal Beach Monitoring brochure visit:

3.) “Beaches and Bacteria”

This article was updated in January 2014 and is available at  It was first published by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Virginia Water Central Newsletter (August 2004).  The article describes:

  • The difference between a beach advisory and a beach closure
  • The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act
  • The types of indicator organisms monitored at Virginia’s beaches
  • Virginia’s bacteria standards
  • Microbial Source Tracking

4.) “Safely Enjoying Virginia’s Natural Waters”

This brochure, published by the Virginia Department of Health, covers topics such as:

  • What organisms are in natural waters and where do they come from?
  • What are the health risks and how are they determined?
  • Why avoid natural water after a heavy rain?
  • What you can do to protect yourself.

Go to to download a PDF document of the brochure.

5.) More from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Healthy Swimming & Recreational Water web page: — Provides information on the following topics and more:

  • Health Benefits of Water Based Exercise – Chronic Illness, Mental Health, Older Adults
  • Swimmer Protection — Tips for Healthy Swimming, Pool and Hot Tub User Information
  • Recreational Water Illnesses — Germs & Illnesses, Education & Prevention Materials, State Resources
  • Other Recreational Water Issues — Drowning, Injuries, Boating, Sun Protection, Extreme Heat
  • Pools & Hot Tubs — Design, Operation, Disinfection, Regulation
  • Oceans, Lakes, & Rivers — Beach Monitoring, Water Quality Indicators
  • Model Aquatic Health Code — About, The MAHC, Updating, Tools

Natación Saludable — Información en Español —



Trump Administration’s April 28, 2017, Executive Order on Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration and Production

On April 28, 2017, the Trump Administration issued an executive order on regulations and policies concerning offshore oil and gas exploration and production.  The order, “Presidential Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” is available online at

Here are some key features of the order, excerpted from its text:

Sec. 2.  Policy.
It shall be the policy of the United States to encourage energy exploration and production, including on the Outer Continental Shelf, in order to maintain the Nation’s position as a global energy leader and foster energy security and resilience for the benefit of the American people, while ensuring that any such activity is safe and environmentally responsible.

Sec. 3.  Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.
[T]he Secretary of the Interior shall…
a) give full consideration to revising the schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales…so that it includes, but is not limited to, annual lease sales, to the maximum extent permitted by law, in each of the following Outer Continental Shelf Planning Areas, as designated by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) (Planning Areas):  Western Gulf of Mexico, Central Gulf of Mexico, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic;
(b) ensure that any revisions made pursuant to subsection (a) of this section do not hinder or affect ongoing lease sales currently scheduled as part of the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Final Program, as published on November 18, 2016; and
(c) develop and implement, in coordination with the Secretary of Commerce and to the maximum extent permitted by law, a streamlined permitting approach for privately funded seismic data research and collection aimed at expeditiously determining the offshore energy resource potential of the United States within the Planning Areas.

Sec. 4.  Responsible Planning for Future Offshore Energy Potential.
(a) The Secretary of Commerce shall, unless expressly required otherwise, refrain from designating or expanding any National Marine Sanctuary under the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, 16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq., unless the sanctuary designation or expansion proposal includes a timely, full accounting from the Department of the Interior of any energy or mineral resource potential within the designated area including offshore energy from wind, oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, and any other sources that the Secretary of Commerce deems appropriate and the potential impact the proposed designation or expansion will have on the development of those resources. …
(b) The Secretary of Commerce…shall conduct a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries, and of all designations and expansions of Marine National Monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906, recently recodified at sections 320301 to 320303 of title 54, United States Code, designated or expanded within the 10-year period prior to the date of this order. …
(c) To further streamline existing regulatory authorities, Executive Order 13754 of December 9, 2016 (Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience), is hereby revoked.

Sec. 5.  Modification of the Withdrawal of Areas of the Outer Continental Shelf from Leasing Disposition.
The body text in each of the memoranda of withdrawal from disposition by leasing of the United States Outer Continental Shelf issued on December 20, 2016, January 27, 2015, and July 14, 2008, is modified to read, in its entirety, as follows:
“Under the authority vested in me as President of the United States, including section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1341(a), I hereby withdraw from disposition by leasing, for a time period without specific expiration, those areas of the Outer Continental Shelf designated as of July 14, 2008, as Marine Sanctuaries under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972, 16 U.S.C. 1431-1434, 33 U.S.C. 1401 et seq.” …

Sec. 6.  Reconsideration of Notice to Lessees and Financial Assurance Regulatory Review.
The Secretary of the Interior shall direct the Director of BOEM to take all necessary steps consistent with law to review BOEM’s Notice to Lessees No. 2016 N01 of September 12, 2016 (Notice to Lessees and Operators of Federal Oil and Gas, and Sulfur Leases, and Holders of Pipeline Right-of-Way and Right-of-Use and Easement Grants in the Outer Continental Shelf), and determine whether modifications are necessary, and if so, to what extent, to ensure operator compliance with lease terms while minimizing unnecessary regulatory burdens.  The Secretary of the Interior shall also review BOEM’s financial assurance regulatory policy to determine the extent to which additional regulation is necessary.

Sec. 7.  Reconsideration of Well Control Rule.
The Secretary of the Interior shall review the Final Rule of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) entitled “Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf-Blowout Preventer Systems and Well Control,” 81 Federal Register 25888 (April 29, 2016), for consistency with the policy set forth in section 2 of this order, and shall publish for notice and comment a proposed rule revising that rule, if appropriate and as consistent with law….

Sec. 8.  Reconsideration of Proposed Offshore Air Rule.
The Secretary of the Interior shall take all steps necessary to review BOEM’s Proposed Rule entitled “Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance,” 81 Federal Register 19718 (April 5, 2016), along with any related rules and guidance, and, if appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable and consistent with law, consider whether the proposed rule, and any related rules and guidance, should be revised or withdrawn.

Sec. 9.  Expedited Consideration of Incidental Harassment Authorizations, Incidental-Take, and Seismic Survey Permits.
The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce shall, to the maximum extent permitted by law, expedite all stages of consideration of Incidental Take Authorization requests, including Incidental Harassment Authorizations and Letters of Authorization, and Seismic Survey permit applications under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.

Sec. 10.  Review of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-55.
The Secretary of Commerce shall review NOAA’s Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR-55 of July 2016 (Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing) for consistency with the policy set forth in section 2 of this order and, after consultation with the appropriate Federal agencies, take all steps permitted by law to rescind or revise that guidance, if appropriate.

Sec. 11.  Review of Offshore Arctic Drilling Rule.
The Secretary of the Interior shall immediately take all steps necessary to review the Final Rule entitled “Oil and Gas and Sulfur Operations on the Outer Continental Shelf—Requirements for Exploratory Drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf,” 81 Federal Register 46478 (July 15, 2016), and, if appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable and consistent with law, publish for notice and comment a proposed rule suspending, revising, or rescinding this rule.

2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill Ecological Damages Valued at $17.2 Billion, According to Research Published on April 20, 2017

In the April 20, 2017, issue of Science, a team of researchers (including Kevin Boyle of Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics) estimated that the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which began April 20, 2010, resulted in the equivalent of $17.2 billion of damage to natural resources.

The estimate was based on a household survey asking what people would be willing to pay to prevent or reduce a future recurrence of the kinds of damages (to organisms and habitats) seen from the 2010 incident.

The article is “Putting a value on injuries to natural assets: The BP oil spill,” in the April 20, 2017, issue of Science (Vol. 356, Issue 6335, pages 253-254), available online at  (The direct link to article is, but a subscription is required for access.)  A summary of the research is available in BP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources, scientists find in first-ever financial evaluation of spill’s impact, Virginia Tech News, 4/20/17.

Climate Change Workshop for Educators to be held July 19-20, 2017, in Charleston, S.C.

On July 19-20, 2017, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (Consortium), the South Carolina Aquarium (SCA), and the National Park Service (NPS) will hold Rising Tides and Changing Times–A Climate Change Workshop for Educators.  The event will be at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.  According to the event Web site, “[s]cientists from the Consortium and SCA will share information about climate impacts on both our community and wildlife; the NPS will discuss climate change from a historical perspective during a tour of Fort Sumter; and technology will be used to investigate downtown Charleston’s challenges with flooding during a ‘Climate Change Amazing Race’ competition.”  While the event will feature Charleston as an example of sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change, it will involve National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tools and activities that can used by teachers in other states.

For more information or to register, visit; phone (843) 953-2078; or e-mail:

An Examination of Antarctic’s Larsen Ice Shelf Changes, in 3/8/17 PBS NewsHour Video

The section-by-section disappearance of Antarctica’s Larsen Ice Shelf is the focus of “How scientists are tracking a massive iceberg in the making,” broadcast on March 8, 2017, on the PBS NewsHour.  The 5 min./55 second video, available online at, discusses how an early 2017 rift in the ice shelf is one of the largest ever seen, separating a section approximately the size of the state of Delaware.  This follows the loss in 2002 of a section in that was approximately the size of Rhode Island.  The report describes some of the satellite technology and imagery used to track such large-scale changes.  More information on changes to the Larsen Ice Shelf is available from the National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA), “Antarctica’s Changing Larsen Ice Shelf,” online at