Panel: Operational Oceanography

Operational Oceanography Special Panel

Wednesday, October 7

Operational Oceanography is defined as the activity of systematic and long-term routine measurements of the seas, ocean and atmosphere, the assimilation and modeling of these measurements, providing spatially continuous nowcast, forecast and hindcast fields across the many time and space scales of ocean phenomena. Temporal requirements range from 100’s of years plus for deep water bathymetry and geoacoustics to twice daily for ocean temperature and currents. Finally, rapid dissemination of actionable knowledge products enabling operational decisions. The equivalent on the weather side can be thought of as running GFS/FV3 and the local weather stations developing their forecast, which disseminated to the public and local officials for on-scene decisions.

This capability supports national security, commerce, economic and public safety applications e.g. placement of national strategic assets, including, but limited to acoustic performance prediction, search and rescue, surge forecasting, optimal ship routing, long-term seal level forecasting and climate studies.

The ability to deliver and sustain an operational ocean model at all required spatial and temporal scales requires:

  • Global sensing infrastructure (e.g. satellites, drifting buoys, buoyancy gliders, ship observations);
  • High bandwidth global communications
  • Supercomputing infrastructure;
  • Efficient physics based models and assimilation algorithms;
  • Accurate boundary conditions (e.g. atmosphere, bathymetry);
  • Wide variety of decimation products for a broad user base.

All of the above requirements present their own challenges. The purpose of the plenary session and panel discussion is to define the status, challenges and future direction of operational oceanography from national security, commercial/economic and climate study perspectives.

Moderator/Panelist: CAPT Kenneth A. Wallace
Naval Oceanographic Office

Born into a Navy family, CAPT Wallace grew up between Honolulu, HI; Monterey, CA; Pensacola, FL; Brunswick, ME and Orange Park, FL. He is a 1993 graduate of Orange Park High School and a 1998 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Oceanography. Upon graduation and commissioning, he reported to NAS Pensacola to commence flight training and was subsequently designated a naval flight officer.

CAPT Wallace transferred into the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography community in 2001 and reported to the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center, Yokosuka, Japan. In 2004, he reported to Stennis Space Center, MS as Flag Aide to the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. He then transferred to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, graduating with a Masters of Science degree in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography in 2008.

He reported aboard USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76) immediately following graduation where he served as the Oceanography Division Officer. During this tour, he qualified as Officer of the Deck while embarked on two deployments to the 7th and 5th Fleet Areas of Responsibility and supporting OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. In June 2010, CAPT Wallace reported to the Naval Oceanography Special Warfare Center (NOSWC), Coronado, CA as the Executive Officer and Deputy Technical Special Reconnaissance Officer for Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command.

CAPT Wallace has served two tours on the Chief of Naval Operations Staff at the Pentagon, performing duties as the Oceanographic Survey Ship (T-AGS) requirements officer, Deputy Executive Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (OPNAV N2N6), and most recently as Executive Assistant to the Oceanographer of the Navy. His first command tour was at Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, Keesler from 2014-16. He also completed the College of Naval Warfare (CNW) resident program at the U.S. Naval War College in November 2017.

CAPT Wallace assumed command of the Naval Oceanographic Office in April, 2020. His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various unit and campaign awards.

Panelist: Tom Cuff

Tom Cuff is the Director, Office of Observations, for NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). He is responsible for the collection of space, weather, water, and climate observational data owned or leveraged by NWS, to support forecasts and impact-based decision support services for the nation. Focal points for these activities include the National Data Buoy Center, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; the Radar Operations Center in Norman, Oklahoma; and the Surface and Upper Air Division, NWS Headquarters, Silver Spring, Maryland.

From December 2015 through March 2019, Tom served as the Director for NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center, NWS, in College Park, Maryland. In this role, he was responsible for providing weather forecasts and hazardous marine warnings for much of the north Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, meeting U.S. responsibilities under the World Meteorological Organization and international Safety of Life at Sea conventions.

Prior to joining NWS, Tom had a naval career that spanned over 30 years, as a naval officer and, for 22 of those years, a civilian employee.

Previous positions included Technical Director for the Naval Oceanographic Office, Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Director, Far East Regional Office, Singapore, for the Naval Oceanographic Office; and the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy, Washington, DC.

A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Tom holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Oceanography and a Master of Science Degree in Meteorology from the University of Maryland. He is a retired Captain, U.S. Navy Reserves.

Tom chairs the World Meteorological Organization’s Standing Committee on Marine Meteorological and Oceanographic Services, and is a member of the Joint WMO/Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Collaborative Board.

Panelist: Dr. Gregg Jacobs

Dr. Gregg Jacobs has been head of the Ocean Dynamics and Prediction Branch (NRL7320) within the Naval Research Laboratory since 2002. The branch has over 35 government employees and 20 contractors focused on research including basic understanding of physics of ocean wave and ice processes, demonstration of predictability, and transitioning ocean forecast systems to production centers within the Navy and other national agencies.

Gregg Jacobs received his BS in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO in 1986, his MS degree in physical oceanography from Oregon State University in 1988 and his PhD in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO in 1991 with the thesis title “An Analysis of Rossby Waves in the Pacific Ocean from Geosat Altimeter Data.” Dr. Jacobs has over 90 refereed journal publications, 5 book chapters and 6 patents awarded. The documented research contains application of in situ and satellite observations to understanding ocean circulation and variability along with the controlling physics. The work examines application of numerical models to physical processes in realistic settings. In addition, the research considers data assimilation to use observations in ocean forecasts.

Panelist: Kelly Knee
RPS Group

Kelly leads RPS’s Ocean Science business in North America, which focuses on oil spill risk and damage assessment, environmental fate and impact modeling, emergency response, and data management and cyber-infrastructure for met-ocean observations and models. Educated as an environmental engineer, Kelly has spent more than 15 years with RPS in a variety of roles focused on coastal and ocean modeling, coastal hazards assessment, GIS, and data management and communication. She currently oversees numerous complex data management, distribution, and visualization projects for NOAA/IOOS, USACE, USCG, Australian Defense Forces, and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council. Prior to joining RPS (formerly ASA) in 2004 she used a Fulbright Fellowship to study the impacts of sea level rise and storm surge flooding in the country of Mauritius by integrating GIS and systems engineering models.

Panelist: Ben Williams

Ben Williams is currently serving as the Metocean Director for the Americas region at Fugro, a multi-national company with a global metocean practice. He has worked for Fugro for the last 15 years, starting his career as an offshore technician collecting loop current data in the Gulf of Mexico and working his way through data quality control and analysis, software development, project management, and operations management. He has worked across the globe conducting or managing physical oceanographic surveys from India to the USA, Canada to Argentina, and many countries in between. He understands that stakeholder engagement and cultural awareness must underpin science conducted around the world.

In the most recent years working as the Metocean Director, he has been able to strategically build a wonderful team of scientists spread between USA, Mexico, and Brazil. In the past three years, he has built a strategy to bring Industry engagement to form collaborative science partnerships with universities. These teams have been expanding the High Frequency (HF) Radar network on the Gulf of Mexico Coast in collaboration with Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) and University of South Mississippi (USM) and the Shell Stones Mooring with Shell, National Academies of Engineering, Science, and Medicine, GCOOS, Texas A&M, USM, and Jasco Applied Sciences. Fugro has made available the semiannual field cruises to the Gulf of Mexico to university students to collect data and samples while learning from an established Industry Health and Safety culture.