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The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System: An Integrated Approach to Building an Operational Regional Observing System

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The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most important ecologic and economic resources in the United States. To help protect this resource and to support a wide range of decision-making, the Gulf of Mexico Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) is being built to be a sustained network that provides integrated coastal and ocean data from a diverse array of data sources in real time, near real time, and historically. GCOOS is 1 of the 11 regional components of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS). Because of the very limited resources available to date, the GCOOS Regional Association (GCOOS-RA), which is working to build the GCOOS, has not deployed any of its own observing systems. That, coupled with strong volunteer participation, has led the GCOOS-RA to focus its efforts on integrating existing federal and non-federal (regional, state, local, academic, and private) assets and data. The GCOOS-RA is working to adapt and expand the GCOOS to address data gaps identified by stakeholders and to apply the lessons learned from events such as the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, harmful algal blooms (HABs), Gulf hurricanes, and hypoxia. The contributions of GCOOS demonstrate the value of a sustained U.S. IOOS and provide specific lessons necessary for the successful build-out of the system in the Gulf of Mexico. However, the lessons also demonstrate the importance of applying additional resources to improve GCOOS’ ability to meet stakeholder needs such as in response to environmental events. A full, comprehensive GCOOS, exclusive of federal assets, is estimated to cost roughly $22 M for capital and $20-25 M/year for operation and maintenance (O&M) in the near term with approximately an additional $25 M in capital to complete the build-out and $35-50 M/year in O&M costs to maintain the system—an excellent value when compared to the billions of dollars of economic impact of four major industries in the Gulf of Mexico: oil and gas, tourism and recreation, fishing, and shipping.
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Keywords: GCOOS; Gulf of Mexico; ocean observing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-01-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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