22 July 2016

Keeping the Lights on for Global Ocean Salinity Observation

Insights about climate are being uncovered thanks to improved capacities to observe ocean salinity


Recent ocean research at PCMDI has leveraged heavily off the automated float (Argo) and ship-based (GO-SHIP) observational networks. These measurements have been used to generate change estimates over the observed records and are used to evaluate and investigate the CO2 forced response in climate model simulations. As ongoing work is dependent on these observing networks, how are they placed to continue into the near- and far-term future. This work evaluates the current status of these observing networks into the coming decade.


The assessment shows that significant cracks are appearing in the Argo array from 2017 onward. This is due to an observing program that has fully optimized the array to the limits of current technology and funding limitations. Renewed funding and community attention is urgently needed to maintain the existing array.


The global climate observing system (GCOS) is highly dependent on the global ocean observing system (GOOS). More than 90% of the Earth’s additional heat due to climate change is stored in the ocean, and in addition to temperature ocean salinity provides a key insight into ongoing water cycle variability and change. Recent science insights have been enabled due to the availability of long-term climate records of ocean temperature and salinity data, however the continuation of these climate-quality datasets is in jeopardy due to stretched funding from many collaborating institutions and the risk of key nations no longer contributing to the observing array.

Paul J. Durack
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
2016.  "Keeping the Lights on for Global Ocean Salinity Observation."  doi:10.1038/nclimate2946.