Current location: Home » Ocean Observations » Capabilities


The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System is designed to be responsive to a broad range of users. U.S. IOOS provides for the interoperable exchange of ocean observing data among data collectors, data providers, data managers and data users. As a system, U.S. IOOS is an adaptive, federated network of ocean observations, data management and communications and modeling and analysis capabilities. It is designed to support the following seven societal goals:

Weather & Climate

  • Improve estimates of surface fields and surface fluxes;
  • Improve predictions on seasonal and longer time scales;
  • Rapidly detect & assess the impact of climate change on the coastal zone.

Maritime Operations

  • Maintain navigable waterways;
  • Route ships more cost effectively;
  • Improve search, rescue & emergency response capabilities.

Natural Hazards

  • Rapidly detect & assess physical & ecological contributions to hazard-risk
  • Improve predictions;
  • Disseminate & provide rapid access to real-time hazards observations & warnings;
  • Complete metadata & retrospective information on all aspects of disaster reduction.


Homeland Security

  • Improve safety & efficiency of operations at sea;
  • Enhance maritime vessel tracking;
  • Establish the capability to detect & predict the dispersion of airborne & water-borne contaminants in ports, harbors, & the littoral zone at home & abroad;
  • Support environmental stewardship;
  • Improve at-sea system performance through more accurate characterization & prediction of the marine boundary layer.


Public Health

  • Establish nationally standardized measures of the risk of illness or injury from exposure to pathogens, toxins, hazards, & dangerous marine animals (water contact);
  • Establish nationally standardized measures of the risk of illness from consuming seafood.


Ecosystem Health

  • Determine regional ecological climatologies for sea surface temperature, salinity, dissolved nutrients, chlorophyll-a, and harmful algal species;
  • Provide more timely detection & improved predictions of changes in the distribution and conditions of habitats (coral reefs, sea grasses, mangroves, & tidal marshes), species diversity, distribution & toxicity of harmful algae, occurrence of invasive species, occurrence of diseases in & mass mortalities of marine animals (fish, mammals, birds), & effects of habitat modification on species diversity;
  • Monitor anthropogenic nutrients & contaminants & their effects on organisms & ecosystems.

Living Resources

  • Provide improved  & more timely prediction of annual fluctuations in spawning stock size, distribution, & sustainable yields for exploitable fish stocks;
  • Detect changes in the spatial extent & condition of essential fish habitat more rapidly;
  • Improve predictions of the effects of fishing on habitats & biodiversity;
  • Establish & monitor the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas.

Assessments of marine and estuarine systems, and the prediction of changes in them, depend on an observing system that provides data in user demanded forms and rates. Effectively linking user needs to measurements requires a two-way flow of data among three essential subsystems, or the “end-to-end” system: (1) observing and data telemetry, (2) DMAC, and (3) data analysis and modeling.

To achieve this vision, development of the U.S. IOOS must adhere to the following principles:

  1. Enable user groups from both private and public sectors to achieve their missions and goals more effectively;
  2. Develop the system with guidance, from both data providers and users and from public and private sectors, that is based on sound science and encompasses a continuum of research to operational activities;
  3. Judiciously integrate existing assets that address the seven societal goals and regional priorities;
  4. Improve the IOOS by enhancing and supplementing the initial system selectively over time;
  5. Routinely, reliably, and continuously serve data and information for multiple applications that provide social and economic benefits both to the nation and to a broad spectrum of users from public and private sectors that use, depend on, manage, or study marine and estuarine environments and the natural resources within them;
  6. Openly and fully share data and information produced at the public expense in a timely manner at no more than the cost of dissemination;
  7. Programs and activities must meet federally approved standards and protocols for observations, data telemetry, and DMAC in order to ensure data quality and interoperability;
  8. Establish procedures to ensure reliable and sustained data streams, to routinely evaluate the performance of the IOOS and assess the value of the information produced, and to improve operational elements of the system as new capabilities become available and user requirements evolve;
  9. Improve the capacity of all states and regions to contribute to and benefit from the IOOS through training and infrastructure development nationwide;
  10. Demonstrate that observing systems or elements thereof, that are incorporated into the operational system either benefit from being a part of an integrated system or contribute to improving the integrated system in terms of the delivery of new or improved products that serve the needs of user groups.