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Climate Observations and Services
Ocean System for Improved Climate Services
What is requested?
As part of the FY2002 request for Climate Observations and Services in the Oceanic and Atmospheric Research budget activity, NOAA is requesting $7.3 million to continue implementing an integrated global oceanographic observation network necessary for climate prediction and research. The observation network is based on a set of core observations (e.g., temperature, winds, salinity, and carbon dioxide), consisting of both onsite (in situ) and satellite measurements, that have been identified to satisfy climate forecasting and assessment needs. The National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) will integrate existing and new ocean observational efforts of the NOPP agencies and their international, state, local, and private sector partners. NOPP members include a variety of government, ocean industries, academia, and National Academy of Sciences partners such as the Navy, NOAA, National Science Foundation (NSF), National Academy Institute of Medicine, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Energy (DoE), University of Miami, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Diamond Offshore Drilling, Inc., Department of Interior (DoI), National Resources Defense Council, Coastal States Organization, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This effort will facilitate broad user access to ocean knowledge, data, tools, and product specific components, such as networks of the observing system.
Why do we need it?
The basic rationale for ocean observations in climate is straightforward: the upper 10 feet of the ocean has the same heat capacity as the entire atmosphere. The ocean thus has an enormous influence on change in air temperature from year to year or from century to century. As can be seen in any carbonated drink, the ocean also holds a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, and it will have a strong influence on future levels of this greenhouse gas. Observing these properties of the ocean and incorporating this data into models analogous to those used to predict weather is essential to the prediction of future climate, whether onset of the next El Niño or the changes of the next decades. The oceans hold the "memory" of the climate system. Just as continuous measurements of weather are maintained on land, similar sustained measurements of the ocean are needed to monitor change and predict its impacts. Improvements in climate forecasts depend on improvements in our ocean observations.
New technology is playing a central role. Last year, deployments began on the Argo program, a global array of instruments that drop to a preset ocean depth, surfacing every 10 days to transmit profiles of temperature and salinity to satellites overhead. These are the ocean equivalent of the weather balloon network used to forecast weather. These floats, together with satellites, will initiate the oceanic equivalent of today's operational observing system for the global atmosphere. Other existing ocean measurements, plus the ability to handle these data and use them in models, are necessary components of an ocean system for climate.
What will we do?
NOAA funding supported 132 floats in FY2000 through FY2001 and is planning for 150 floats in FY2002. An additional $3.2M is requested for FY2002. Given expected loss rates and life spans of the floats, this funding level will support a sustained deployment level of approximately 282 floats per year, which will allow NOAA to reach its commitment of 1000 floats, plus communications and data management by FY2005.
This is a truly international effort with ten nations plus the European Union providing Argo floats at this time. The proposed United States commitment is to maintain one-third of the global array of 3,000 profiling Argo floats.
Also included in this request is the expansion of a global network of fixed, automated reference stations to monitor ocean conditions in much the same way that the Mauna Loa station has monitored the atmosphere. Other measurements include observations of dissolved carbon dioxide and factors related to the thickness of Arctic sea ice. Completing the request is the data management and ocean modeling necessary to use the data.
What are the benefits?
As the planet's principal reservoir of heat, the ocean will play a central role in climate change at any time scale. In particular, the international network of tropical ocean observations led by NOAA played a critical part in the "early warning" of the 1997/98 El Niño, where impacts were felt in agriculture, energy, ecosystems, health, and property. Estimates suggest that the impacts were of the order of billions of dollars in several of these sectors just in the U.S. Improved forecasts, fostered by the development of an ocean observing system and combined with partnerships with end users, will foster an era of preparedness rather than relief for such climate events as floods and droughts.
At longer time-scales, improved documentation and analysis of variability in the ocean will provide the information needed for society to anticipate and adapt to the changes in climate. Improved estimates of the ocean uptake and release of carbon dioxide will assist decision makers in considering a national policy for adapting to climate change. Improved estimates of sea level change are crucial information to decision makers as the U.S. population shifts to the Nation's coasts.
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