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NOAA’s mapping tool helps in monitoring Arctic oil spills

US: NOAA’s online mapping tool, Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA), used by emergency responders during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been expanded to include the Arctic. ERMA will help address numerous challenges in the Arctic posed by increasing ship traffic and proposed energy development.

“The addition of Arctic ERMA will be of tremendous benefit to responders in this rapidly developing region,” said Jane Lubchenco, under-secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “This scientific tool could provide essential information in responding to potential oil spills and pollution releases in the Arctic.”

“We are committed to a comprehensive, science-based approach to energy policy in the Arctic,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes. “This initiative is part of the Administration’s commitment to continuing the expansion of safe and responsible production of our domestic resources and is an exciting step forward in our efforts to collect, synthesise and deliver relevant information to decision-makers.”

ERMA brings together all of the available information needed for an effective emergency response in the Arctic. In an emergency situation, ERMA is equipped with near real-time oceanographic observations and weather data from NOAA, and critical environmental, commercial, and industrial data information from BSEE, and numerous other federal and state response agencies. Responders can further customise the tool with environmental, logistical, and operational data such as fishery closure areas, resources at risk maps, and mariner notices, depending on the need.

Integrating and synthesising real-time and static data into a single interactive map, ERMA provides a quick visualisation of the situation, improving communication and coordination among responders and stakeholders. NOAA developed Arctic ERMA to be better prepared for escalating energy exploration and transportation activity in the region.

“After observing the positive way in which the ERMA assisted response efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, I believe it is highly important to support the continued development of an Arctic ERMA. It will be useful to communities, public agencies and the private sector as a tool to guide many activities,” said Fran Ulmer, chair, US Arctic Research Commission.

Source: NOAA