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As the national community moves towards the implementation of an integrated ocean observing system (IOOS), there is the clear opportunity and responsibility to use the IOOS resources, emerging knowledge, and advances in technology to address a broad range of user applications. The IOOS can support and help to find solutions for problems in a diverse range of areas, including natural hazards, marine operations, human and environmental health, resource sustainability, climate and weather, and national security. The various regional observing systems that have been, or are being, established address a number of these problems areas. However, as the regional systems are integrated and sustained, it will be increasingly important for successful components to convincingly demonstrate the feasibility of pre-operational regional observing systems, their relevance to national needs, and the practicality of their linkage to a national observing network and national federation. The Carolinas Coastal Ocean Observing and Prediction System (Caro-COOPS) is a preoperational, regional system, which has an immediate objective of developing an advanced storm surge and flooding model, as well as the medium range goal and capacity to address a considerably broader range of user needs. Specifically, Caro-COOPS will provide real-time predictions and ultimately forecasts to mitigate natural hazards, support management of living resources and marine ecosystems, and facilitate safe and efficient marine operations and support national security efforts. To establish Caro-COOPS, a mooring array is being deployed in the summer of 2003 in the coastal waters of the Carolinas. This network of observations will be integrated within a sophisticated data management system and will support an advanced suite of integrated models. In addition, the Caro-COOPS system will disseminate real-time data on coastal ocean conditions and deliver regular, comprehensive information products to serve the needs of man- > - > y user groups, including government agencies, industries, scientists, educators, non-governmental organizations, and the public. Caro-COOPS is a NOAA funded partnership led by the University of South Carolina's Belle W. Baruch Institute, with the North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Implementation is guided by a set of principles and guidelines consistent with the IOOS vision. The essential elements of Caro-COOPS - the observational network, the data communications and management infrastructure, and the modeling and applications tools - will be interactively coupled and are designed so they can build upon, work with, and leverage off existing research and operational capabilities in the region.