National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory

Physical Oceanography Division

NOAA 2016 Administrator's and Technology Transfer Awards winners and April 2016 NOAA Employee & Team Member of the Month

The recipients of the NOAA’s 2016 Administrator’s and Technology Transfer Awards winners for the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research are: Pedro Pena, Francis Bringas, Ulises Rivero and Gustavo Goni. For developing and implementing an Iridium-based real-time transmission system for oceanographic and meteorological observations from ships.

Caridad Ibis Gonzalez was April 2016 NOAA Employee & Team Member of the Month

NOAA deploys approximately 12,000 eXpendable BathyThermographs (XBTs) per year as part of its contribution to the global XBT Network, a component of the Global Ocean Observing System.   XBTs are probes that measure temperature profiles to a depth of 800m.  Globally, the international community deploys more than 18,000 XBTs per year.  The XBT network involves the participation of sixteen institutions from twelve countries. XBT data are critical to monitor how the ocean redistributes heat, to assess the variability of boundary and surface currents, and to contribute to estimates of global ocean heat content.   XBT deployments are usually performed from cargo ships, and the data collected are transmitted in real-time to global data distribution centers. The observations collected are used as input for weather and climate numerical model forecasts, to assess model estimates, and to carry out scientific analysis of ocean variability around the world.

Historically, XBT profiles were transmitted using the Inmarsat-C satellite network, with a cost of $18 per profile, resulting in an annual cost of $215,000 which was covered by NOAA/NWS under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NWS and OAR. Under this MoU, NOAA/OAR/AOML provides support for data distribution of NWS marine weather observations obtained from voluntary observing ships.

A novel project was initiated by employees of the Physical Oceanography Division at NOAA/AOML in 2011 to make NOAA XBT transmissions more efficient and cost-effective.  The NOAA/AOML employees nominated here built the system and software from the ground up, and integrated it with the AMVERSEAS computer applications system used in research and commercial vessels worldwide to acquire and transmit oceanographic and meteorological observations in real-time. The new system uses the Iridium satellite network to transmit XBT temperature profiles more reliably and at a fraction of the cost of the original system. Results from initial tests carried out in 2013 were used to optimize the system and to reduce or eliminate connection drops and data loss. The new system started being transitioned to operations during 2015.  With the new system, the average transmission cost per XBT profile was $0.80, a 95% cost reduction, which lowered the $215,000 annual cost to $9,500 annually while improving data reliability.

The new transmission system is currently being used in all cargo ships with transects operated by AOML and by Scripps Oceanographic Institution collecting XBT observations. Although originally developed for XBT observations, the system has been expanded to transmit other types of data, such as ThermoSalinoGraph (TSG), pCO2 data, and marine weather observations, since it is capable of transmitting any type or amount of data. In addition to Iridium transmissions, the new system can also be configured to transmit data over telephone landlines or computer networks.  Therefore, savings in transmission costs are being further increased.


April 2016 Employee & Team Member of the Month

Caridad Ibis Gonzalez, an associate with the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami, was the lead software developer for a project that improved how ocean temperature data from eXpendable Bathy Thermographs are transmitted by shifting to the Iridium satellite network. Caridad developed the software from the ground up and integrated it with the computer system used by research and commercial vessels worldwide to gather and transmit oceanographic and meteorological observations in real-time. Not only is the data more reliable, but the system has since been expanded to transmit other types of data. The new system can transmit any type or amount of data much less expensively than before.