National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ships and independent contractors are preparing for the nation's 177th hydrographic surveying season, seeking to collect ocean and coastal mapping data for 2,525 square nautical miles in high-traffic coastal waters of the continental United States and Alaska.
"The science of these surveys underpins the steady flow of commerce and the safety of mariners and coastal communities," said NOAA Corps Capt. John E. Lowell, director of the Office of Coast Survey and U.S. national hydrographer, in a statement.
U.S. waters cover 3.4-million-square nautical miles, including a constantly changing coastal environment because of storms, erosion and other coastal processes.
The surveys planned for 2011 will acquire data to update the country's nautical charts, especially where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly.
Because nautical charting surveys depict changes on the coastal ocean floor as well as depths and obstructions, coastal managers increasingly use the data to better understand ecosystem habitat, fisheries management and coastal planning.