MARACOOS is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System, covering the region from Cape Cod, MA to Cape Hatteras, NC for U.S. IOOS

Map of MARACOOS's areaDiverse Regional Needs: The Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) extends 1000 km alongshore, from Cape Cod, MA to Cape Hatteras, NC. It includes five major estuarine systems and a wide continental shelf cut by a deep cross-shelf valley and multiple shelf-break canyons. The footprint encompasses 10 states, the District of Columbia, and approximately 76 million people, or 25% of the US population.  The nation’s highest coastal population density makes increasingly competing demands for marine and coastal resources. Ports in the region handle 23% of the total U.S. waterborne commerce, and include the nation’s largest petroleum product hub and the world’s largest Naval base. The MAB is a dynamic boundary between cooler arctic waters and warmer tropical waters, with complex seasonal physical dynamics. These dynamics structure shellfish and migratory fish habitats that support both commercial and recreational fisheries. Developed watersheds and urban estuaries, impacted by a century of industrialization and growing coastal populations, degrade coastal water quality and diminish recreational economies. Inundation driven by tropical storms and northeasters are year-round threats to the large populations that live on the broad coastal plain. While the region’s electrical power grid is the most congested in the nation, the high population density, reliable winds, and wide continental shelf combine to support the nation’s first offshore wind energy development projects. To further compound these challenges, climate warming is altering fish and shellfish habitats in the MAB, and new rainfall patterns with more frequent extremes are impacting homes, farms and reservoirs.

Regional Progress: The Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (MACOORA) was established in 2004 as the U.S. IOOS Regional Association (RA) for the MAB. Since then MACOORA created the framework in which the Mid-Atlantic’s coastal ocean user community identified its five highest priority regional themes: (1) Maritime Safety, (2) Ecosystem Based Management, (3) Water Quality, (4) Coastal Inundation, and (5) Offshore Energy. Early user workshops were critical in identifying Maritime Safety and Ecological Decision Support as initial targets, first addressing a specific end-user need for surface current mapping to inform an advanced USCG Search And Rescue (SAR) capability, and then exploring a more general need to provide a missing layer of 3-D environmental information to fisheries resource managers, commercial and recreational fishers. MACOORA established the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARCOOS) to provide the necessary ocean observing, data management, and forecasting capacity to systematically address the prioritized regional themes.  MARCOOS, a NOPP-style, academic-industry-government partnership, has leveraged the region’s distributed centers of critical expertise to form an interactive regional network. Operations include an industry-funded coastal weather network, primary and back-up satellite data acquisition centers, a triple-nested multistatic HF Radar network, an accelerating autonomous underwater glider capability, and mission-specific statistical and dynamical ocean forecast models. One of the most visible MARCOOS successes is the end-to-end demonstration of the nation’s first operational HF Radar network supporting the USCG Search And Rescue Optimal Planning System (SAROPS).

A Plan for the Future: Building on accomplishments and lessons learned, the organizational activities of MACOORA and the operational activities of MARCOOS have been united and integrated into a new corporate entity called the Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARACOOS). Between 2011 and 2015 MARACOOS: 1)maintained and expanded the existing observing, data management and forecasting subsystems focused on the transition from data-generated to model-generated ensemble ocean forecast products that target multiple users; and (2) expanded end-to-end operations across all five regional themes through (a) enhanced education and engagement activities, (b) the leveraging of resources beyond IOOS through expanded Users and Advisory Council, and (c) the application of NFRA-endorsed metrics to measure and demonstrate success. The new MARACOOS, bringing together over 30 investigators and partners from 20 institutions, will result in closer connectivity between ocean observatory data, model generators and the wide range of end users.