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Category Archives: Physical Oceanography

Follow the Sargassum: Tracking algae in the Atlantic , Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico

AOML researchers released an assortment of GPS equipped drifters into the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea to study how ocean currents and winds play a role in the distribution of Sargassum.  With the data obtained from the sargassum drifters along with satellite data from the University of South Florida, AOML researchers now have the ability to distribute weekly experimental Sargassum Index Reports. 

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Robots Probe Ocean Depths in Mission to Fine-Tune Hurricane Forecasts

Four ocean gliders set off to sea this week to bring back data that scientists hope will improve the accuracy of hurricane forecast models.The robotic, unmanned gliders are equipped with sensors to measure the salt content (salinity) and temperature as they move through the ocean at different depths.  The gliders, which can operate in hurricane conditions, collect data during dives down to a half mile below the sea surface, and transmit the data to satellites when they surface.  

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New Study Shows Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and Mediterranean Sea Level are Connected

The global mean sea level rise caused by ocean warming and glacier melting over landforms such as Greenland is one of the most alarming aspects of a shifting global climate. However, the dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere further influence sea level changes region by region and over time. For example, along the U.S. East Coast, a pronounced acceleration of sea level rise in 2010-2015 was observed south of Cape Hatteras, while a deceleration occurred up North.  These patterns provide background conditions, on top of which shorter-period (and often stronger) weather-driven sea level fluctuations compound what coastal communities directly experience day by day. Therefore, to develop or improve regional sea level predictions, it’s important to identify these patterns and explore how they change over time.

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Unmanned Ocean Gliders Help Improve Hurricane Forecasts

NOAA will soon launch a fleet of 15 unmanned gliders in the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean this hurricane season to collect important oceanic data that could prove useful to forecasters. “If you want to improve prediction of how hurricanes gain strength or weaken as they travel over the ocean, it’s critical to take the ocean’s temperature and measure how salty it is,” said Gustavo Goni, an oceanographer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory who is helping lead the glider research. “Not just at the surface, which we measure with satellites, but down into deeper layers of ocean waters.”

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NOAA’s Global Drifter Program: Ocean Dynamics Data Improves Forecasting and Coastal Safety

NOAA’s Global Drifter Program is a globally collaborative research project that provides near real-time marine data for the world. It allows us to record data for weather forecasts, track decadal patterns, and pinpoint inter-annual climate variations like El Nino Southern Oscillation. Global drifters provide observational verification for weather models, calibrate satellite observations, and collect and transfer new data about the ocean temperature, currents and barometric pressure.

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Argo Data Acquisition Center at AOML Surpasses One Million Profile Benchmark

Staff with the US Argo Data Acquisition Center (DAC) at AOML marked an important milestone this past February by processing the one millionth profile from Argo floats. The DAC team has been processing and quality controlling all of the raw data obtained from US-deployed Argo floats since 2001, with about 90,000 temperature-salinity profiles processed annually since 2007. These profiles have provided the global scientific community with an unprecedented record of the evolving state of the upper ocean, advancing understanding of the ocean’s role in world climate.

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Indian Ocean Hydrographic Cruise Allows Scientists to Sample for the First Time Since 1995

Existing observations show that Indian Ocean surface water temperatures have been increasing since the 1970’s. But has the deep ocean warmed? Have the regional concentrations of dissolved oxygen, carbon dioxide, or nutrients changed? Has the western Indian Ocean become more acidic? These and more questions will be addressed by scientists after the completion of this cruise.

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Underwater Gliders Contribute to Atlantic Hurricane Season Operational Forecasts

Scientists strategically deployed the gliders during the peak of hurricane season, from July through November 2017, collecting data in regions where hurricanes commonly travel and intensify. The gliders continually gathered temperature and salinity profile data, generating more than 4,000 profiles to enhance scientific understanding of the air-sea interaction processes that drive hurricane intensification.

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Tracking Marine Debris

Researchers at AOML, NESDIS CoastWatch, and the University of Miami are currently exploring how the distribution of marine debris is affected by both ocean currents and wind. During a recent experiment, scientists deployed several prototype drifters in the Florida Current off the coast of Miami to simulate commonly found debris of varying weights and shapes. These drifters carry GPS transmitters that provide their location four times per day. 

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New Data Set to Improve Tropical Atlantic Ocean and Atmospheric Research

Researchers at NOAA AOML have released a new tropical Atlantic data set that includes several enhancements to improve data accuracy and data collection in the tropical Atlantic. The new data set is called enhanced PIRATA, or ePIRATA, and provides continuous records of upper-ocean temperature, salinity, and currents, together with meteorological data such as winds, humidity, and solar radiation. ePIRATA should prove valuable in better analyzing ocean and atmospheric processes in the tropical Atlantic.

PIRATA, the Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic, is a multinational observation network, established to improve knowledge and understanding of ocean-atmosphere variability in the tropical Atlantic. It is a joint project of Brazil, France and the United States of America, motivated by fundamental scientific issues and by societal needs for improved prediction of climate variability and its impact on the countries surrounding the tropical Atlantic basin. PIRATA provides measurements at 18 locations throughout the tropical Atlantic

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