Ocean Climate Observations and Analyses (2010-2011)

The goal of this observational project is to maintain long-term surface moorings, known as Ocean
Reference Stations, as part of the integrated ocean observing system. Ocean Reference Stations
collect long time series of observations of surface meteorology and upper ocean variability in
regions of key interest to climate studies. The resulting meteorological and oceanographic
observations provide a set of high quality air-sea fluxes of heat, freshwater and momentum as
well as upper ocean heat and salt content. The scientific rationale for the collection of these flux
products is manifold: (1) to describe the upper ocean variability and the local response to
atmospheric forcing; (2) to motivate and guide improvement to atmospheric, oceanic, and
coupled models; (3) to calibrate and guide improvement to remote sensing products and
capabilities; and (4) to provide anchor points for the development of new, basin scale fields of the
air-sea fluxes. Model, satellite, and climatological fields of surface meteorology and air-sea
fluxes have large errors; high quality, in-situ time series are the essential data needed to improve
our understanding of atmosphere-ocean coupling and to create more accurate global fields.
Three Ocean Reference Stations are being maintained: A site at 20°S, 85°W under the stratus
cloud deck off northern Chile (Stratus), the Northwest Tropical Atlantic Station (NTAS) at 15°N,
51°W, and a site north of Hawaii near the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) site at 22.75°N,
158°W known as the WHOI Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station or WHOTS. Moorings at the
Stratus and NTAS sites were first deployed in 2000 and 2001, respectively, and became longterm
Ocean Reference Stations. WHOTS was established in 2004, in collaboration with
investigators that have made shipboard and moored observations in that region in recent years.
The users of Ocean Reference Station data are: (1) Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP)
centers, including the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) in the United
States, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in Europe, the
Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR); (2) climate modeling groups
and groups analyzing the realism of climate models, NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric
Research) in the U.S. and the international SURFA (Surface Flux Analysis) project where ORS
data is used as validation truth for examining the performance of many different climate models
from different countries; (3) those analyzing and assessing the realism of satellite retrievals at the
sea surface (sea surface temperature) and of surface meteorology (e.g., winds) and surface waves,
including investigators at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ESA
(European Space Agency); (4) those working to developed gridded fields of air-sea fluxes of
heat, moisture, and momentum to accurately determine and monitor these fields on a global
basis; (5) investigators and researchers studying air-sea interaction, cloud physics, and upper
ocean dynamics at key locations, such as under the marine stratus clouds off Chile (Stratus) and
in trade wind locations such as NTAS and WHOTS; (6) investigators working under VOCALS
(VAMOS Ocean Cloud Land Atmosphere Study, where VAMOS is the Variability of the
American Monsoon Systems of the international CLIVAR (Climate Variability research
program)), which has focused on improved understanding and prediction of the marine stratus
and its impacts on climate over the Americas; and (7) ocean model developers and users at US
research and operational model centers, who use the time series of ocean variability at the ORS to
examine the realism of ocean models.

Users of the ORS platforms in addition to our effort include: (1) the National Data Buoy Center
(NDBC), an NDBC surface wave package is installed on the Stratus ORS to provide surface
wave data in the extremely data sparse eastern South Pacific, (2) NOAA PMEL (Pacific Marine
Environmental Laboratory), which has installed instrumentation to measure carbon dioxide in the
surface waters at the Stratus and WHOTS ORS, and (3) investigators from WHOI and LDEO
(Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University) who have installed instrumentation
to study ocean mixing on the Stratus ORS mooring, with the intent of improving understanding
and prediction of sea surface temperatures under the marine stratus.
The Ocean Reference Stations project is managed under four task areas: (1) Engineering,
oversight, and data management, (2) Maintenance of the Stratus site, (3) Maintenance of the
NTAS site, and (4) Maintenance of the WHOTS site. Accomplishments in each of the task areas
are reported in more detail below.