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GorickHorizonBanner800x182Many separate observing systems comprise the GOOS.  These vary from a few buoys operated by a research lab, to intergovernemental cooperations which organize globe spanning efforts.  The GOOS seeks to find the value of associating these many systems together to create a value greater than the separate parts.  By integrating disparate systems the unique data and distribution systems of each can become part of a greater system, enhancing the value and utility of the individual systems as well as creating a global view of the earth's oceans.



The Argo floats are autonomous observation systems which drift with ocean currents making detailed physical measurements of the upper 2 km of the water column. Every 10 days an Argo float changes its buoyancy by pumping fluid into an external bladder. During its journey through the water column, it records the conductivity of the seawater, its temperature, and depth pressure. Once at the surface the Argo finds its geographical position via GPS and transmits its recordings by satellite to Argo data centres where the information is joined with data from over 3,000 other Argo floats to form a synoptic 3-D view of the ocean in near real time.

This remarkable system has revolutionized oceanography since its inception in 1998 through the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) program and the Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE). Argo floats now number more than 3,000 and take more than 100,000 salinity and temperature profiles each year, more than 20 times the annual hydrography profiles taken from research ships. The Argo array is truly an international program with more than 23 different countries contributing floats and ship time for deployments. The project is overseen by the International Argo Steering Team and operations are overseen at the Argo Information Centre, a part of the JCOMMOPS.

Argo data has transformed ocean circulation studies. Today Argo data is routinely assimilated into global circulation models giving accurate and timely global views of the circulation patterns and heat distribution of the ocean. This product has become an essential element of atmospheric forecast models and greatly improves seasonal climate, monsoon, El Niño forecasts, as well as tropical cyclone simulations. The value of subsurface heat content measurements to the study of global warming and climate change has made the Argo an invaluable component of 21st century environmental observation systems.



The direct sampling of ocean water by lowering bottles from a ship and returning water samples shipboard for analysis remains one of the fundamental tools of ocean observations. The workhorse of hydrography is the Niskin bottle which is often deployed in clusters on an instrumented rosette, which records Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD). The CTD rosette is lowered to its deepest point and then as it is winched up to the ship the bottles are closed, one at a time, capturing a profile of the water column along the way. The water can be filtered and sampled for CO2, chlorophyll, microorganisms, biogeochemistry, and a wide variety of other uses. The IOCCP and CLIVAR organize and coordinate hydrography cruises and maintain databases of tens of thousands of hydrography profiles taken throughout the world’s ocean. This program is an essential component of the ocean observing system as it is the only way to directly monitor the ocean’s take-up of CO2 and changes in ocean acidity levels caused by climate change.

The JCOMM and Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory Global Drifter Program manages the deployment of drifting buoys around the world. These simple buoys take measurements of surface seawater temperature and salinity and marine meteorological variables that are telemetered in real time through the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Telecommunications System (GTS) to support global meteorological services as well as climate research and monitoring. The drifters are a flexible component of GOOS and can be deployed quickly for such tasks as monitoring an approaching typhoon. The global array is designed to use 1,250 buoys to cover the oceans at a resolution of one per 5° x 5°. The surface temperature data have been used to calibrate satellite temperature imagery, bringing bias errors down from 0.7 degree Celsius to less than 0.3 degree, allowing accurate climate change monitoring. Along with the Argo profilers the surface drifter programme has contributed to the success of a real-time monitoring system of the oceans, allowing much more accurate weather and climate forecasts.


Launched over the side of a research vessel, merchant ship, or other vessel of opportunity, the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) captures plankton from the near-surface waters as the boat tows the instrument during its normal sailing. British oceanographer Sir Alister Hardy developed the first prototype to sample krill in the Antarctic on the Discovery cruises of 1925-27. He modified the design for use in the North Sea and started collecting plankton in the 1930s. Since 1946, the CPR has been regularly deployed in the North Sea on a number of routes. The CPR is a critical component of GOOS and monitors the near-surface plankton in the North Atlantic and North Sea over a monthly basis from a network of shipping routes.
The CPR is about one meter in length. The body is made of gunmetal, (phosphor bronze), or stainless steel in later versions from 1997. The CPR has been operated successfully at speeds of up to 25 knots, and its robust design allows deployment in rough seas without fear of excessive damage. Successful tows have been conducted during sea states that are experiencing wind forces upwards of 11.
The CPR works by filtering plankton from the water over long distances (up to 500 nautical miles) on a moving filter band of silk (270 micron mesh size). The filter silk band is wound through the CPR on rollers turned by gears, which are powered by an impeller. On return to the laboratory, the silk is removed from the mechanism and divided into samples (known as blocks) representing 10 nautical miles of towing. The amounts and types of phytoplankton and zooplankton captured upon the silk are analyzed at the lab. After analysis, the counts are checked and added to the CPR database, which contains details of the plankton found on over 170,000 samples taken since 1946 in the North Sea and North Atlantic Ocean.

GACS is short for the Global Alliance of Continuous Plankton Recorder Surveys, which is an international scientific organisation that was established in September 2011.

The goal of GACS is "to understand changes in plankton biodiversity at ocean basin scales through a global network of CPR surveys".

GACS has a number of specific aims, which include:

to develop a global Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) database
to produce a regular Ecological Status Report for global plankton biodiversity
to ensure that common standards and methodologies are maintained
to provide an interface for plankton biodiversity with other global ocean observation programmes
to set up and maintain a website for publicity and data access
to facilitate new CPR surveys and develop capacity building procedures
to facilitate secondments of CPR scientists between GACS institutions



The Global Sea-Level Observing System, GLOSS, is an international programme overseeing the coordination of a network of sea level monitoring gauges installed along sea shores in over 70 countries. Each station is capable of accurately monitoring sea level changes with high accuracy and many are able to transmit information in real time via satellite links. The GLOSS network is incorporated into Tsunami warning systems. Real time measurements of water level changes can provide tsunami warnings for locations surrounding the affected sea basins. Sea-level observations are also useful for local navigation and continual refinement of tide table predictions. Tide gauges measure rising water levels from storms and extreme tides which can be responsible for billions of Euros in damages and lost productivity every year. Sea level is rising as a consequence of melting glaciers and warming ocean temperatures due to climate change. With higher sea level comes an increase in the severity and frequency of flooding from storm inundation.

The image is of an Ott Radar Unit which records sea level by acoustically measuring the distance from the transducer head to the water surface.



The Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS) is an international programme conducted under the auspices of the Joint Technical Commission for Oc

eanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). GLOSS aims at the establishment of high quality global and regional sea level networks for application to climate, oceanographic and coastal sea level research. The programme became known as GLOSS as it provides data for deriving the 'Global Level of the Sea Surface'.

The main component of GLOSS is the 'Global Core Network' (GCN) of 290 sea level stations around the world for long term climate change and oceanographic sea level monitoring.

GLOSS Home Page

Ocean Tracking Network will track thousands of marine animals around the world "from fish to birds to polar bears" using acoustic tags safely attached to the animals. At the same time, the network will be building a record of climate change data.

OTN home site


A good article describing part of the OTN:  Marine Biodiversity and Biogeography – Regional Comparisons of Global Issues, an Introduction, Ron O'Dor1, Patricia Miloslavich2, Kristen Yarincik, Aug. 2010

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