The NGI Science, Education and Research Management Plan and the NGI Strategic Plan describe how the Institute develops a program of scientific inquiry that supports the needs of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) line offices. Research primarily addresses goals of NGI, NOAA, and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and secondarily other programs that align with those programs. The NGI Chief Scientist and the NOAA Science Coordinator for NGI help staff and sponsors develop projects that fit within the intent of the research provisions of the NGI plans.
The ecosystems in the northern Gulf are the home to valuable fisheries, important recreational activities, and many commercial operations including fossil fuel extraction and coastal industries. The region needs more monitoring and basic information to support resource management. Fisheries ecosystem based management is a fundamental element in NOAA's Five Year Strategic Plan and a recommendation of the President's Commission on Ocean Policy as part of an overall strategy to protect, preserve, and utilize our marine resources.
The ability to assess the distribution of features in the coastal environment has improved dramatically over recent decades. Many organizations are involved in collecting data to measure the primary properties of coastal zones using a variety of methods ranging from remote sensing to in situ sensors and sampling. There is a wealth of accumulated information about coastal zones in various databases, files, spreadsheets. Sharing generated datasets, information, and results between geographically distributed organizations often proves to be challenging. Further, use of higher resolution data has been limited because of the computational intensity required.
NOAA believes that the nation needs targeted climate services at all scales and that this goal will require unprecedented levels of coordination between all agencies. Within the US, extensive climate-related changes have been documented. In the 2001 Southeast Regional Climate Assessment Study sponsored by NASA, the southeastern U.S. was the only region for which climate models simulated large and opposing changes in precipitation patterns over the next 100 years. The range of differences was so great that it was difficult to state with any degree of confidence that precipitation will increase or decrease in the Southeast over the next 30 to 100 years as atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases increase. A highly developed global model with an embedded high resolution regional model is expected to provide more accurate site- and year-specific predictions of maximum and minimum temperature, precipitation frequency and amount, and net radiation than forecasts based on historic or El Nino Southern Oscillation climatology.
Improving understanding of several significant coastal hazards is more crucial now than ever before. Coastal populations have grown exponentially over the past 30 years. In addition, the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most economically critical ecosystems in the Nation. Coastal hazards and public health and safety are major concerns to agencies responsible for the public good of coastal regions. Weather and ocean phenomena considered in the context of anthropogenic factors pose considerable resource sustainability, financial and safety threats to the Gulf coast region.