Tropical Atlantic Observations for Climate and Weather


PIRATA, the Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic, is a multinational observation network, established to improve our 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.

For more information, see the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society cover story for August 2008.

Visit the main PIRATA web site, including data display and delivery.

PIRATA is 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. The overarching goals of the project are to:

  1. improve the description of the intra-seasonal to interannual variability in the atmospheric and oceanic boundary layers of the tropical Atlantic Ocean;
  2. improve our understanding of the relative contributions of air-sea fluxes and ocean dynamics to variability in sea surface temperature and sub-surface heat content;
  3. provide a set of data useful for developing and improving the predictive models of the ocean-atmosphere coupled system;
  4. document interactions between tropical Atlantic climate and variability outside the region, such as ENSO and the North Atlantic Oscillation;
  5. design, deploy, and maintain an array of moored oceanic buoys and collect and transmit a set of oeanic and atmospheric data, via satellite in near-real time, to monitor and study the upper ocean and atmosphere of the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Implementation of PIRATA started in 1997 with an array of backbone moored buoys in the Atlantic (Servain et al., 1998), similar to the Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean (TAO) array used to study ENSO variability in the equatorial Pacific (McPhaden et al., 1998). Starting in late 2005, extensions were added to the backbone array in key regions, including the US-led PIRATA Northeast Extension (PNE) in the climate-critical Tropical North Atlantic. The current configuration of the PIRATA array is shown below:

This image shows the PIRATA backbone of buoys (red squares), the Northeast Extension (blue stars) led by the United States, the Southwest Extension (green circles) led by Brazil, the Southeast Extension pilot site (yellow triangle), and island-based observation sites (green crosses). Buoys with barometers and longwave radiometers are indicated with black circles.