National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2021

Cold pools observed by uncrewed surface vehicles in the Central and Eastern Tropical Pacific

Wills, S.M., M.F. Cronin, and D. Zhang

Geophys. Res. Lett., 48(10), e2021GL093373, doi: 10.1029/2021GL093373, View online (open access) (2021)

New in situ observations collected by Saildrones, a novel uncrewed surface vehicle (USV), are used to investigate atmospheric cold pools during three 6-month missions to the central and eastern (∼140°W–125°W) tropical Pacific. Cold pool fronts in the atmospheric boundary layer are identified by a −1.5°C air temperature drop occurring in 10 min or less. While cold pool events were observed in the central Pacific as far north as 30°N and within the equatorial band, the majority of observed cold pools occurred within the convective, low-wind shear environment of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. Composite time series analysis of measurements during the 382 cold pool events reveals new insights on high-frequency variations in air temperature, wind speed, humidity, pressure, and sea surface temperature and salinity associated with cold pool fronts. The results highlight the unique capabilities of Saildrone USVs to resolve small spatial and temporal scales of variability over observationally sparse ocean regions.

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