3rd GEOSS Science and Technology Stakeholder Workshop
March 23-25, 2015, Norfolk, VA, USA

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Essential Observations for the Oceans

Mark A. Bourassa, Center for Ocean-Atmosphere Prediction Studies, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL Co-chair Ocean Observation Panel for Climate

The ocean observations that are deemed (by national and international organizations) as important and feasible to observe with sufficient accuracy as Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) or as Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs). These variables have been well established for physical oceanography, and some have been established for the biogeochemistry. The biological community is working towards suggesting EOVs to the national and international organizations that are charged with selecting these variables and setting the observational goals. Decades ago, the physical oceanography, atmospheric, and terrestrial ECVs were determined with the goal of addressing climate variability in the context of societal issues and related science questions. The Essential Ocean Variables were developed later, with goals beyond climate: weather forecasting, transport, recreation and others. They are similar to the ECVs, but also address issues such as the delay between observations being taken and being made available, as well as the differences in quality between near real-time data and delayed mode data (which often has more rigorous quality control and adjustments to improve accuracy). A short overview of ECVs and EOVs will be given, with a short explanation of some of the differences. Efforts are ongoing to better select and explain the need for ECVs and EOVs. Therefore this is a time when outreach and interaction will have their maximum benefit.

A question that is currently being pondered is how to take advantage of established components of the observing system (typically physical variables) to more rapidly develop and deploy less mature components of the observing system (chemical and biological variables). Key issues are structural compatibility and changes in cost, operational life time, and infrastructure needs. For example, the cost and availability of ship time influences the goals for operational lifetime. The sampling needs and the advantage of collocated variables is another critical consideration. For example, the usefulness of many biogeochemical variables is greatly enhanced by collocation with physical variables, and vice versa. Another factor in considering how these observations should be combined is the links to societal and science drivers, which are in turn linked to global conventions and mandates. New efforts to describe these links will be described and demonstrated. The approach shown highlights the different applications to which the observations apply.