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TAO Report to CLIVAR SSG-11

Report to the 11th session of the CLIVAR Scientific Steering Group
Xian, China 21-24 May 2002

Other TIP pages
Tropical moored buoy panel, 2001-present
TAO panel, 1992 - 2001
Tropical moored buoy arrays are an essential element of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). Detailed implementation issues are overseen by the Tropical Moored Buoy Implementation Panel (TIP) co-sponsored by GOOS, GCOS, and CLIVAR. The major activity of Tropical Moored Buoy Implementation Panel (TIP) over the past year was to co-sponsor, along with the IOC/GOOS Ocean Observations Panel for Climate (OOPC) and the CLIVAR Ocean Observations Panel (COOP), a review of tropical moored buoy programs in support climate research and forecasting. The workshop was held at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington during 10-12 September 2001. Is about to be issued issued.

The following is a status report of moored programs in all three ocean basins in support of CLIVAR, GOOS, and GCOS.



The TAO/TRITON array in the Pacific continues to effectively serve a wide community of scientists involved in seasonal-to-interannual climate research and forecasting. The availability of data in real-time, its high quality, and its widespread dissemination via the GTS and the World Wide Web are hallmarks of TAO/TRITON. The data from this array underpins recent forecasts issued by NCEP and the WMO of developing warm conditions in the tropical Pacific for 2002 (view these conditions at /tao/jsdisplay/).

An NOAA funded extension of TAO in the Eastern Pacific will continue until late 2003 in support of the PACS/EPIC program. This extension consists of 3 additional moorings along 95W, plus salinity, velocity, and a complete suite of surface flux meteorological sensors on all ten 95W moorings. Continuation of the PACS/EPIC moorings and their enhancements as part of the TAO/TRITON array is currently a topic of discussion.

There is a reasonably stable base of resources at present in terms of funding, shiptime, personnel for TAO/TRITON. However, one concern in the US is that funding levels are fixed and, without adjustments, inflation and other unexpected operating costs will slowly erode the ability to maintain the array. Another concern is that vandalism by fishing fleets continues to adversely affect data return and equipment return, particular on the eastern and western margins of the array.

In the coming 1-2 years, TAO/TRITON will focus efforts to

  • Improve upon data return (82% in the past year)
  • Continue to ensure that the data are freely available and widely disseminated for research and forecasting (over 50 new publications in the refereed literature used data from the array in 2001)
  • Introduce new or existing technologies where appropriate to enhance system performance and improve on instrumental accuracy (with emphasis on additional velocity, salinity, and surface flux measurements).
  • Work with the broader community to ensure that TAO/TRITON is fully integrated with other elements of the global ocean observing system and global climate observing system.

2. South American Buoy Programs

Peru received World Bank funding to acquire and deploy surface SeaWatch moored buoys made by Oceanor as part of a program called NAYLAMP (http://www.naylamp.dhn.mil.pe/). The moorings (5S and 8S along 85W, and two nearshore buoys at the same latitudes) were first deployed in September 2000 and they extend TAO/TRITON lines towards the South American coast. Surface and subsurface data are transmitted via Argos in real time. The buoys have suffered from fishing vandalism, and at present none is transmitting data. It is expected that new moorings will be put in place in the near future.

Ecuador has recently received funding for purchase of 3 Oceanor moored buoys. These buoys will be used to maintain two sites, one at 2S, 85W and one at 2S, 89W. Like the Peruvian buoys, the Ecuadoran buoys will extend the TAO/TRITON array to near the coast of South America. First deployments are planned for May 2002. Data will be transmitted in real-time via Service Argos.

Spearheaded by Chilean scientists, plans have been drawn up in the past two years for an extensive program of moorings spanning the west coast of South America between 5N and 45S. Called OSEPA, this program would include the Peruvian and Ecuadoran buoys as northern components. OSEPA has yet to be implemented because it lacks funding.


The same technology (ATLAS moorings) and data processing schemes are used for the French, Brazilian, US PIRATA array in the Atlantic. This array was begun in 1997 and so does not yet have the track record that TAO/TRITON does in supporting research and forecasting efforts. However, many research groups are using the data in modeling and empirical studies of tropical Atlantic phenomenology and in studies of how the ocean affects climate in this region. These efforts were highlighted most recently at the CLIVAR Atlantic workshop held in Paris in September 2001. In addition, institutions like NCEP, ECMWF, IFREMER (through its CORIOLIS program) regularly utilize PIRATA data in their operational analysis and forecast products.

Adequacy of ship time is an issue in the Atlantic. To date, France and Brazil have contributed sufficient ship time for servicing buoys approximately once per year. Data return was 75% during the past year, which is an improvement on previous years but lower than in the Pacific. Part of the reason for the lower return is because of less frequent buoy servicing (only once vs. twice per year as in the Pacific). Vandalism by fishing fleets continues to adversely affect data return and equipment return, particular on the Gulf of Guinea region. The recent improvement in data return is in part related to decommissioning two vandal-prone sites in this region.

France, Brazil, and the US signed a memorandum of understanding in Paris in August 2001 to continue PIRATA for a 5-year "consolidation phase" (2001-2005). The agreement stipulates specific shared responsibilities and a common objectives for maintaining the array. Northwestern and southeastern extensions to PIRATA are planned but are as yet unfunded. There have also been discussions about instituting a Brazilian base of operations in Natal to support long term operations for PIRATA and other elements of GOOS.


As yet there is nothing approaching a full moored array in the Indian Ocean. There are several interrelated science drivers for developing an Indian Ocean moored buoy program in support of climate (e.g. the monsoons, Indian Ocean Dipole, intraseasonal variability, etc) and efforts underway to establish an initial moored buoy network for climate studies in the region. These efforts include two JAMSTEC TRITON buoys deployed at 1.5S, 90E and 5S, 95E in October 2001 and the buoys of the Indian National Data Buoy Program in the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and along the equator. India maintains 5 deep sea moored buoys and 5 coastal moored buoys, all measuring surface pressure, air temperature, winds, SST, SSS, waves and surface currents. It also has 2 equatorial current meter moorings at 83E and 93E. The mooring at 83E has an upward looking ADCP at 100m. As in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, vandalism adversely affects data and equipment return. Shortly after deployment, the TRITON buoy at 5S, 95E had several meteorological sensors fail in a mode indicative of human interference. There have also been reports of data losses from Indian buoys stemming from vandalism.

There are interests in further building on these efforts through initiatives put forward by South Africa in collaboration with neighboring countries, within US academic and government labs, and elsewhere. Initial steps toward coordinated multi-national planning were taken during the SOCIO and TIP workshops held in Perth, Australia in November of 2000. A second SOCIO workshop will be held in Mauritius later in 2002 under auspices of the IOC to continue this coordination and development effort.

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