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Will LightSquared mean lights out for GPS?

LightSquared's broadband network threatens to disrupt GPS navigation at sea, on land and in the air.As a rule of thumb, marine electronics manufacturers assume that nearly every boat on the water carries GPS in one form or another, and that effectively gives boaters membership in a larger group called the “GPS community.” The group found its voice for the first time this year in the face of a common enemy.

Backed by a hedge-fund billionaire, a company called LightSquared wants to build a 4G broadband communications network, and the Federal Communications Commission has given its initial approval. GPS manufacturers and users are horrified, believing that LightSquared’s plan would disrupt navigation on land and sea and in the air.

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Often in danger, charting a path to Union's victory

During the Civil War, Coast Survey field staff scouted, mapped, cleared sunken ships from channels and placed navigation aids to help Union forces.Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has dug into its archives and found a trove of wartime cartography and accounts of topographers and hydrographers dispatched to the front lines to work as surveyors, boat pilots, and chart- and mapmakers for the Union cause.

Deployed in combat intelligence or combat engineering roles, Coast Survey field staff would scout, map, chart, pilot, clear sunken ships from channels and install navigation aids for Union forces, often while dodging bullets and artillery rounds.



Obscure names, notable deeds

When the war broke out, Charles Harrod Boyd’s survey team moved up to Passamaquoddy Bay, Maine, to get away from the fighting in South Carolina, where it had been working. While the Coast Survey schooner Arago, Boyd’s ship, was in Maine it captured two Confederate ships, Express and Alice Ball, that were trying to run a naval blockade in late summer 1861. The survey team moved back to South Carolina to work with the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. In May 1862, while doing survey work along the James River, Boyd captured six Confederate soldiers from the 24th South Carolina Regiment.



Inside Hurricane Irene

Dry air collapsed the eyewall, diminishing its feared winds, but the vast storm pounded the East Coast with flooding rain

Hurricane Irene as it looked at 8:32 a.m. on Aug. 28, just 28 minutes before making landfall in New York City, according to NASA. Its huge cloud cover blanketed all of New England and beyond.Computer modeling, satellite data, and high-tech instruments and sensors have taken the science of hurricane prediction to new heights, but Hurricane Irene — much anticipated as the storm of the century — confounded forecasters.
The storm proved to be much less violent than predicted. The reason: An unexpected infusion of dry air caused Irene’s wind-generating engine to sputter. Hurricanes are “full of surprises,” says Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the website Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com), who followed the storm’s development from start to finish. This one fooled Masters, as it did most other forecasters. It turned out to be more of a rain event than a wind-and-surge event.



Hurricane alarm too shrill?

On Aug. 29, the remnants of Irene moved into Quebec while Tropical Storm Jose and Tropical Depression 12 spun through the Atlantic.The alerts for Hurricane Irene were early, loud and clear. This could be that perfect storm forecasters had been dreading: a Category 4 hurricane perfectly aligned to rake the East Coast from the Carolinas to New England and wreak catastrophic damage on one of the country’s most populous regions.

“I am most concerned about the storm surge danger to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and the rest of the New England coast,” Jeffrey Masters, the Weather Underground’s director of meteorology, warned in a blog two days before Irene’s Aug. 27 landfall at Cape Lookout, N.C. “Irene is capable of inundating portions of the coast under 10 to 15 feet of water to the highest storm surge depths ever recorded. I strongly recommend that all residents of the Mid-Atlantic and New England coast familiarize themselves with their storm surge risk” and evacuate if emergency officials order it.



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