Friday, February 17, 2012

Time to stop losing ocean data to vandalism

Sidney Thurston and M. Ravichandran in The global community relies on a rapidly expanding ocean observing network to understand the climate and ecosystems, to help warn against ocean-borne hazards such as tsunamis and storm surges caused by cyclones, and to support sea rescue missions.

Sensors attached to moored or drifting buoys gather meteorological and oceanographic data and transmit them in real time, via satellite, to scientific and operational communities across the world.

For example, the Global Tropical Moored Buoy Array (GTMBA) (see figure 1) provides real-time data for climate research and forecasting. Its major components — including the TAO/TRITON array in the Pacific — monitor a range of phenomena including the El NiƱo/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific, hurricane activity in the Atlantic, and monsoons in the Indian Ocean.

But all types of moored ocean data buoys are increasingly at risk of damage — whether deliberate vandalism or through negligence. At its worst, vandalism and damage threatens the very sustainability of some major observation networks, or substantial parts of them. It pushes up operating costs and, crucially, it erodes the value and community benefit that monitoring equipment provides through scientific knowledge. Countries and fishers in South-East Asia must act against ocean buoy vandalism....

NOAA deploying an Argo Float, image from NOAA

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