PMEL Research Activities
PMEL El Niño-related activities include basic research, observations and development of global tropical observational platforms, publications and provision of comprehensive resources for the public and researchers.
One of PMEL’s most successful climate programs is the development of the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) buoy array across the equatorial Pacific, which has led to improved description, understanding, and prediction of El Niño and La Niña. Over 650 research papers have been published using data generated by TAO together with the companion TRITON array, maintained by the Japanese in the far western equatorial Pacific. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center now routinely makes ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) predictions based on the TAO-TRITON data. Operation of the TAO array has been transferred from PMEL to the National Weather Service. Using data from the array, PMEL researchers continue their research on ENSO events and assess their impacts on global weather patterns.
PMEL is responsible for about 13% of the global Argo profiling float array of more than 3000 floats. The global Argo profiling float array was initiated in 1999 as a multi-institutional and international collaboration to provide systematic observations of temperature and salinity in the upper two kilometers of the world’s oceans to improve understanding of the dynamics of the upper levels of the ocean and to improve ocean and atmosphere computer models. PMEL’s initial contribution to Argo involved calibration of salinity measurements, but in 2003 the Laboratory became active in the deployment of Argo floats. The Argo floats are an important component of the El Niño observing system.
The Thermal Modeling and Analysis Project (TMAP) group’s research focuses on how ocean and atmosphere interact to produce different patterns of climate variability (e.g., El Niño) around the globe. The group examines climate data and model output to determine how to best identify climate patterns in and over the sea in order to anticipate unusual weather in the months ahead, and provides the realtime ENSO SSTA indices - at-a-glance views of most recent values compared to historical standard deviations, monthly tendencies, time series plots. TMAP also supports the State of the ocean climate,which includes the ENSO indices, Atmosphere, Surface ocean, subsurface ocean & sea ice.
Banner graphic of TAO mooring from the TAO Project Office.