National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 1997

An ocean observing system for climate

Nowlin, Jr., W.D., N. Smith, G. Needler, P.K. Taylor, R. Weller, R. Schmitt, L. Merlivat, A. Vézina, A. Alexiou, M. McPhaden, and M. Wakatsuchi

Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc., 77(10), 2243–2273, doi: 10.1175/1520-0477(1996)077<2243:AOOSFC>2.0.CO;2 (1996)

Designs and implementation are proceeding for a Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and a Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). The initial design for the ocean component of the GCOS, which is also the climate module of the GOOS, was completed in 1995 by the Ocean Observing System Development Panel (OOSDP). This design for an ocean observing system for climate aims to provide ocean observations leading to gridded products, analyses, forecasts, indexes, assessments, and other items needed to detect, monitor, understand, and predict climate variations and change. A summary of the OOSDP report is presented here, beginning with the rationale for such a system and the series of specific goals and subgoals used to focus the design. The instruments, platforms, transmission systems, or processing required to observe the climate variables or quantifiable aspects of the climate system to meet these subgoals are identified. These observing system elements are divided into three categories: 1) elements of existing operational systems, 2) those that should be added now to complete the initial observing system, or 3) elements perhaps not now readily attainable but that should be added to the system at the earliest feasible time. Future research and development likely needed for further development of the system are also identified in the report. The elements needed for each subgoal are ranked as to feasibility (i.e., routine, systematic, timely, and cost-effective characteristics) versus their impact on attaining the subgoal. Priorities among the various subgoals are presented based on the panel's perception of where the immediate and important issues lie. This then provides the basis for an incremental approach to implementation, leading to a coherent conceptual design.

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