The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announces the 500th site into its National Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) network, which spans the United States, most of its territories and a few foreign countries. Administered under NOAA Ocean Service’s National Geodetic Survey, each CORS site features a ground-based sensor that continuously records signals from the constellation of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites providing free navigational and scientific data. NOAA is an agency of the United States Department of Commerce.
“CORS provides an invaluable tool for navigational, climate and weather-related data that will have a measurable impact on the economy and an incalculable impact on human safety,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Through the CORS network, we are forging new relationships with various public and private organizations around the country, supporting NOAA’s efforts to create a Global Earth Observing System of Systems.”
The newest site, NCG1, is located in Greensboro, N.C., and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. NOAA has built and operated about 80 CORS sites itself since the birth of the program in 1994. The remaining National CORS sites are operated by more than 80 different organizations representing various federal, state and local government agencies, as well as academic and private institutions. Another 50 organizations have built and operated more than 400 additional sites that comprise the Cooperative CORS network and the California CORS network. Together, the three networks (National CORS, Cooperative CORS and California CORS) currently include more than 900 sites and are growing at a rate of 100+ new sites per year. This rate is expected to double within the next few years due to the popularity of the CORS program.
Users can apply CORS data to determine the three-dimensional coordinates of a location with an accuracy of a few inches. As such, users apply CORS data to accurately and economically interrelate the locations of navigational aids, utility lines, important boundaries and other map-worthy objects. CORS data can also be applied to determine accurate heights, such as those needed to assess the potential of flooding in certain areas.
CORS can be used to track the path of a moving platform, such as a plane, a boat or a land vehicle, with an accuracy of less than a foot. This capability was applied with precise distance-measuring instrumentation aboard an aircraft to produce high-resolution maps for segments of the U.S. coast to assess the damage caused by several hurricanes during this past summer.
Additionally, scientists use CORS data to monitor the motion associated with earthquakes, volcanic activity and land subsidence. Meteorologists use CORS data to monitor the distribution of moisture in the lower atmosphere to predict the amount of precipitation that may occur during a forthcoming storm. Atmospheric scientists use CORS data to monitor how solar flares disturb radio transmissions by ionizing molecules in the upper atmosphere.
The CORS program continues to evolve. NOAA is developing and refining utilities making CORS data more easily accessible. This includes enhancing the Online Positioning User Service (OPUS), a utility that enables people to submit their GPS data to NOAA via the Web to calculate precise positional coordinates. To improve the reliability of CORS data flow, NOAA has recently established a parallel CORS data facility in Boulder, Colo., to supplement its original data facility located in Silver Spring, Md. These two facilities will each collect and distribute CORS data independently to prevent a disruption in CORS service should one of these facilities suffer a loss of electric power or communications.
NOAA’s Ocean Service, which includes the National Geodetic Survey, is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. NOAA’s Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.
NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources.