The Global Drifter Program

GDP Objectives


The Global Drifter Program (GDP) is the principle component of the Global Surface Drifting Buoy Array, a branch of NOAA's Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and a scientific project of the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP). Its objectives are to:

1. Maintain a global 5x5 degree array of 1250 satellite-tracked surface drifting buoys to meet the need for an accurate and globally dense set of in-situ observations of mixed layer currents, sea surface temperature, atmospheric pressure, winds and salinity, and

2. Provide a data processing system for scientific use of these data.

These data support short-term (seasonal to interannual) climate predictions as well as climate research and monitoring.


The GDP is managed with close cooperation between:

Manufacturers in private industry, who build the drifters according to closely monitored specifications;

NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), which coordinates deployments, processes the data, archives the data, maintaines META files describing each drifter deployed, develops and distributes data-based products, and updates the GDP website; and

NOAA's Joint Institute for Marine Observations (JIMO), which supervises the industry, upgrades the technology, purchases drifters, and develops enhanced data sets.

Liasons between the GDP and individual research programs that deploy drifters are maintained by Drs. Luca Centurioni (JIMO) and Rick Lumpkin (AOML).